On January 19 (January 6 on the Julian Calendar), the Orthodox Church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as the Theophany (“Appearance of God”), as it was the first time Jesus was revealed to be God. It is one of the twelve major holidays of Orthodox Christianity. The feast day was established to celebrate one of the central events of the New Testament – the Baptism of Jesus by the prophet John the Forerunner and Baptist in the waters of the Jordan River.
Archimandrite Alexander, Vicar of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate of America, led the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. Matrona in Miami. The Rector served with Archpriest Vitaly Yakimchuk, Fr. Peter Prokoptsov, and Fr. Maxim Pliskov. After Liturgy, the clergy performed the rite of the Great Blessing of Waters, a tradition that originated in the first centuries of Christianity. The service was completed by Patriarch Sophronius of Jerusalem (+638). It is only performed twice a year on the Forefeast (day before) of Theophany and the day itself. The Orthodox Church refers to the consecrated water as “Agiasmo”, which means “holy and blessed.”
Archimandrite Alexander then greeted the parishioners on the Great Feast and wished everyone God’s help in preservation of that purity and holiness of the soul, which was washed by water and the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism established by the Savior.
Eight years before, the parish of Saint Matrona established an annual tradition of gathering at Dania Beach after Liturgy on the Feast of Theophany to bless the ocean and enter the waters. This was established in order for the community to feel a spiritual connection with the natural world created by God. Throughout the world on that day Orthodox Clergy bless reservoirs and natural bodies of water. It is also a tradition in countries that experience cold weather in January for the faithful to take Theophany baths in freezing waters. Blocks are cut out of ice and volunteers plunge into the water despite the extreme weather conditions. This practice is very important to Slavic people who are far from their homelands where this tradition is observed. Archimandrite Alexander consecrated the considerably warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean assisted by the cathedral clergy and Archpriest Vasily Deyak of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker Monastery in Fort Myers. At the conclusion of the service, many parishioners plunged into the consecrated Floridian waters.