SOURCE: The Day (Kyiv)
Today the Orthodox and Greek Catholics are celebrating Epiphany, also known in the Ukrainian folk tradition as Baptism of Our Lord. The feast was established in memory of an evangelical event, when, before beginning to preach the New Testament, Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River.
“Under the Law of Moses, an individual could find themselves in the spiritual condition of impurity by committing a sin, eating or touching something that is banned,” says Bishop Yevstratii (Zoria) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchate. “To be cleansed, one was not only to be aware of what they have done but also to wash in water. So the Old Testament’s baptism meant repentance and cleansing of the past. It is for this reason that the prophet and precursor St. John the Baptist, who was aware of the Savior’s sinless nature, asks: ‘Have you come to me to be baptized?’ Actually, Jesus’ baptism prompted the overt revelation of the Holy Trinity. When the Son of God came out of the water, St. John the Baptist saw the opening heavens and the Divine Spirit that was coming down in the shape of a dove. ‘It is My favorite Son, Whom I chose,’ said the Lord. This is why the feast is called Epiphany or Theophany [Greek for “manifestation of God.” – Ed.]. Remembering this event, we annually hold solemn services and perform the act of greater water blessing (in some other cases, it may be lesser blessing). Incidentally, the Jordan water is considered a special sanctity.”
The clergymen also said that the folk custom of Epiphany washing has been reviving in the past decade. The church sees nothing objectionable in this tradition but advises not to tempt God, i.e., observe safety precautions and, obviously, understand that a mere dip into water will not cleanse one of their sins. What really cleanses is penitence which is a change inside a human being.
“I have just thought that there should be ethnographic and area-studies classes in our theological schools,” Father Heorhii continues. “This will eliminate separation between faith and traditions. Then we will know for sure that on January 19 none should attend a service and a greater water blessing ceremony and only later, if one wishes so, bathe in water. Traditions beautify, but not replace, feasts.”
P.S. Water was blessed in many temples yesterevening or early in the morning today. But you can attend the water blessing performed by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at 12 o’clock today on Kyiv’s Obolonska Embankment near the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin the Protectress. Besides, Filaret, Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchate, will be offering the solemn liturgy at 2 p.m. at Hydropark, Kyiv, near the so-called Venetian Bridge.