Tarpon Springs, FL.- Photo: Dimitrios Panagos
The annual reliving of Jesus Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan will be celebrated on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida. A procession to Spring Bayou will commence immediately following church services, for the Blessing of the Waters and Cross retrieval.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Archdiocese of America and Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta of the Metropolis of Atlanta will be among the participants in this year’s observance said Father Anastasios Gounaris, Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral. “Christ’s immersion is the Jordan blessed the waters there and, by extension, all Creation. Consequently, Orthodox Christianity holds fast to the belief that humanity is entrusted with responsible stewardship of this sanctified Creation, so as to pass on this sacred inheritance intact to future generations. This is the inspiration behind the lifelong crusade of our Ecumenical Patriarch (world-wide leader of the Orthodox Church) Bartholomew – the “Green Patriarch” – for preservation of the environment.” Having been appointed in June 2014, this will be Fr. Gounaris’ first experience of this nationally-acclaimed Tarpon Springs tradition.
Leading up to the feast day, the Blessing of the Fleet will take place Monday, January 5th noon-1 p.m. at the entrance to the Sponge Exchange. Clergy will bless the fisherman, their vessels, the water in which they travel, and wish them safe and prosperous voyages. The service will occur at the Sponge Docks on the Anclote River which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. Commercial fisherman and recreational boaters will participate.
On January 6th, Epiphany observances begin at 8 a.m. with Orthros (Matins) followed by the Archierarchical Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral at 10 a.m., located at 36 N. Pinellas Ave. Following the Divine Liturgy and the Great Blessing of the Waters, hierarchs, clergy, dignitaries and thousands of faithful onlookers will form an stirring procession to Spring Bayou, lead by altar boys, school children in traditional costumes, choir members and Greek Folk dance groups from throughout the Tampa Bay area. From a platform overlooking Spring Bayou, a short Blessing of the Bayou is conducted, highlighted by a specially selected young woman releasing a white dove – symbolizing the Holy Spirit – over the Bayou. The Archbishop will cast a custom made, specially weighted, white wooden cross into the water and some fifty young men will dive for the honor of retrieving the Holy Cross. In a moving scene, the retriever will kneel and present the cross to the Archbishop and, in return, receive a blessing. The divers, hierarchs and clergy will return to the Cathedral for final remarks and presentations.
Following the ceremony, an Epiphany Glendi (celebration) – with food, drink, live music and dancing – will be held at the St Nicholas Spanos-Pappas Community Center. There will also be displays of traditional Greek dancing performed by the Levendia, the nationally award-winning Hellenic dance troupe, as well as by other local Hellenic dance groups. At the Glendi, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios will honor the Epiphany divers and the Cross retriever.
Further announcements include December 24th announcement of the Dove Bearer.