Each January 6, Eastern Orthodox Christians throughout the world celebrate Theophany, which in Greek mean “manifestation of God.” The day commemorates the Baptism of Christ and the Divine revelation of the Holy Trinity. Part of Theophany in many locations with a major waterway include the outdoor Blessing of the Waters service. As a sign of blessing as Christ blessed the Jordan, holy water is poured into the body of water. An associated tradition has been the tossing of a cross into the water to be retrieved, in warmer climates by divers. The holy water is given to the faithful to consume and to use in blessing their homes. In the weeks following the service, clergy visit the homes of parishioners and conduct a service of blessing using the holy water that was blessed on the holiday.
While all parishes hold an in-church Blessing of the Water Service, this outdoor Blessing of the Water service along a major waterway is rare in this part of the United States. Here are the outdoor Blessing of the Water Services that took place this year within the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago:
On Friday, January 6 at Bev’s on the River in Sioux City, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and St Thomas Antiochian Orthodox Church will held an annual service blessing the Missouri River. The approximately half hour service ended with the local priest, Father Dimitri Tobias of Holy Trinity and Father Lucas Rice of St Thomas, tossing into, and retrieving from, the Missouri River a blessed cross, symbolic of Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan. An honored guest at the service was Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott.
On Friday, January 6, in Wilmore Park, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Town and Country, St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of St Louis and St Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Swansea will held an annual service blessing the Mississippi River. The approximately half hour service ended with the local priests tossing into, and retrieving from, the lake a blessed cross, symbolic of Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan. While this service has in the past taken place in Downtown St Louis and the cross tossed into the Mississippi River itself, because of construction along the river in Downtown St Louis it has been moved to this outstanding location.
On Friday, January 6 at Hidden Falls Park in St Paul, St George Greek Orthodox Church of St Paul, St Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church of Minneapolis, and St. Mary Romanian Orthodox Church of St. Paul held the 1st annual service blessing the Mississippi River. The approximately half hour service ended with the local priest, Father Richard Andrews of St George, Father George Dokos of St Mary’s, and Father Mircea Vasiu of St. Mary Romanian, bravely walking across a third of the frozen Mississippi River in order to toss into and retrieve from a small sliver of open waterway, a blessed cross, symbolic of Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan. The temperature at the beginning of the service had just reached 0 degrees.
On Saturday, January 7 at the Spirit of Peoria Riverboat in Downtown Peoria, All Saints Greek Orthodox Church hosted the Annual Blessing of Illinois River. The Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, presided over the service, tossed a cross into the Illinois River and retrieve it during the service, symbolic of Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan. All Saints Greek Orthodox Church hosted this event in Peoria, with clergy and parishioners of nearby Eastern Orthodox Churches participating: St George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Spring Valley, Holy Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Church in Peoria, and St Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Peoria.
On Sunday, January 8, at Catfish Charlie’s on the banks of the Mississippi River in Downtown Dubuque, St Elias Greek Orthodox Church held an annual service blessing the Mississippi River.