Local Orthodox Traditions: Throwing the Cross in the Waters

On the sixth of January each year we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany or more accurately, Theophany, which is the manifestation of the Trinitarian God. At the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended on Christ the Son of God, and the voice of God the Father was heard.
For all Orthodox Christians around the world it is called the Blessing of the Waters Day. It is not just a commemoration of a historical event in the life of Jesus, because in the Christian Faith everything is present, here and now, just as our Lord Jesus Christ is with us here and now. It is Christ who we call upon to sanctify the water, and all men and all creation. In the Lord’s epiphany, all creation becomes good again the way God Himself made it.
In honour of the baptism of Christ, water is blessed and distributed among the faithful in small bottles to take home (αγιασμό). In most countries this feast day is followed (normally the Sunday after the feast) by the blessing of waters and immersion of a cross in seas, lakes and rivers… whatever is easily accessible to the Parish church.

In Sydney, we have the annual Blessing of the Waters.

At Yarra Bay where all the Parishes of Sydney come together as one people of God, under the leadership of His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos, and all the priesthood. The Troparion of the Feast is chanted three times:


“When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan the worship of the Trinity was made manifest! For the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, calling Thee his Beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of his Word. O Christ our God, who hast revealed Thyself and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee” and the cross is then thrown into the water. Many young boys and men, who have been patiently waiting for the signal, then dive into the water to retrieve the cross, and he who finds it first is considered to be blessed for that year.

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