Friday, January 20, 2017

Blessing of the Waters on Julian Epiphany

Yesterday was the feast of the Holy Theophany on the Julian Calendar, the commemoration of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. It is a tradition of the Byzantine Rite to bless not just water in vessels within the church on this day, but also large bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. If the body of water is frozen (as is often the case, especially in the Slavic nations), they will then cut a hole in the ice, so that people can have a polar-bear swim in the newly blessed water. Part of the ritual of the blessing involves submerging a hand-held cross in the water three times; in many places, it is the custom for the bishop or priest who performs the blessing to throw the cross into the water, after which, people dive in to retrieve it. It is popularly believed that the person who gets it will enjoy good health for the coming year, which will definitely be needed after taking that bath.

Here we see part of the ritual at the Greek-Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kyiv Ukraine, celebrated by the Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, (and some ‘polar-bears’ at the end,) from the Youtube channel of Живе Телебачення (Zhyve Telebachennya), the television channel of the UGCC.

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