Saturday, February 09, 2008

Christ is Baptised!

As with the post on Christmas, this is another late post:

Of old, the river Jordan
Turned back before Elisha's mantle at Elijah's ascension.
The waters were parted in two
And the waterway became a dry path.
This is truly a symbol of baptism
By which we pass through this mortal life.
Christ has appeared in the Jordan to sanctify the waters!

Troparion (4th Tone)

19th January marked Theophany (according to the Old Calendar), one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Church. This feast celebrates our Lord's divine manifestation - the revelation of God in human form, in the person of Jesus Christ. The word 'Theophany' is itself derived from the Greek Θεοφάνεια; "God shining forth".

This feast is often confused with the Western Christian celebration of Epiphany. While the essence of the feast in both cases remains the same: the manifestation of Christ to the world, they commemorate different historical events. Western Christians commemorate the visitation of the Magi, while the East celebrates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan.

The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan marks the first (and one of two) occasions when all three Persons of the Trinity manifested themselves to humanity: the Father speaking through the clouds, the Son being baptized in the river and the Holy Spirit descending from heaven in the shape of a dove. Thus, this feast not only celebrates the shining forth of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, but the Trinity as well.

On this day, there is a great blessing of waters. The blessing is done twice: once in the church, and again outdoors at a body of water. In what was described as "a sign of Christian unity", the congregations of both Russian and Greek parishes in Singapore met at East Coast Park to witness the blessing of the sea.

Regular Roman Catholic visitor Ernest and I hitched a ride from church to East Coast Park from the Mitsyk family. Vika read us Bible stories (in Russian, with a Ukrainian accent) along the way. Her brother Seva amused himself with my folding fan.

Bishop Sergey of Vladivostok, who was visiting at that time, presided over the joint blessing.

Lost in Translation: Bishop Sergey spoke no English, and Fr Daniel spoke no Russian - the mechanics of the ceremony was tirelessly maintained by many translators.

Nun Svetlana bears the icon of Theophany.

Censing the Congregation

The cross is dipped three times into the sea, blessing it.

The cross was then cast into the waters and volunteers try to recover it. The person who gets the cross first returns it, and it given a special blessing. The girls (as seen in this picture) were, oddly enough, swimming away from the cross. Edward remarked that women have no sense of direction.

The cross was venerated by the faithful after the blessing of the sea.

The day was concluded with much food and drink, while the children were happy to spend the rest of the day at beach.

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