Epiphany eve: why is the Church not commanded to jump into the hole

© RIA Novosti / Igor Maslowprice in photobacteria swimmingEpiphany eve: why is the Church not commanded to jump into the hole© RIA Novosti / Igor Maslowprice the image Bank

Swimming in the awful cold and the widespread blessing of the waters — Orthodox Christians on Thursday celebrate Epiphany eve, the day before one of the twelve major religious holidays — Epiphany or Theophany. About the meaning of Epiphany eve and about whether or not this day is all the water of grace — in the material RIA Novosti.

«Sacrifice man»

As in Epiphany, and Christmas eve relies a strict fast — food without oil. By monastic Charter prescribes the so-called strict fast bread, vegetables, fruit. A traditional dish these days — sochivo, steamed wheat with honey, nuts and other additives.

«One day of strict fasting, up to a total abstinence from food, is the most ancient kind of preparation for the feast, a sacrifice of man, — says the rector of the Pyatnitsky representation of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, associate Professor of the Moscow theological Academy (MDA), Archpriest Pavel Velikanov. — Here we want to obtain something from God, but that we, for our part, are willing to bring? We are nothing He can not bring, because everything is of God. But we can limit themselves to what have a legitimate right. It’s kind of a feat of abstinence, clipping that is not vital, the expression of our willingness to give something to God.»

In the first centuries of Christianity, the Nativity and Epiphany were celebrated in one day on the holiday, which is called Theophany — the manifestation of God on Earth. However, over time, the celebration of two events — the birth of Jesus Christ and His baptism in the Jordan — were separated by time, and the days between these two holidays were called Yule, i.e. Holy days, which abolished the mandatory fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.

«Holidays of Christmas and Epiphany point to different aspects of the Epiphany, says MDA associate Professor, candidate of theology, priest Mikhail Zheltov. — If the first is devoted to the earthly Ministry of the God-man Jesus Christ, to His manifestation on earth, the second the beginning of His sermon, the phenomenon of the society and the revelation about His childhood in God at the moment of Baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan.»

Two great blessing of water

On Epiphany eve, according to Church regulations, performed the rite of the great blessing of water. In the celebration of Baptism this rite by tradition is repeated again.

«The essence of the great blessing of water is that Christians believe that through the incarnation, through the coming of God to Earth in human flesh is the blessing not only of the person itself, but all the elements on Earth. The world through the power of God, receives the possibility of qualitative changes. When overcome enmity between man and God, and the world itself feels a certain impact of these life-giving divine powers,» explains Archpriest Pavel Velikanov.

Some believers believe in Epiphany all water becomes Holy automatically, including the one that flows from the tap, but the Russian Orthodox Church do not make such generalizations because «it is perceived as sanctified in the Church that in the Church and sanctified».

Holy water, dipping in the hole-the Jordan — that is primarily associated in the popular mind a mass Baptism. Long queues of citizens with different capacities to a particular temple are a familiar sight in large cities these days. According to father Paul, he often meets representatives of other religions and of different nationalities who want to bring home Holy water and some way to use it.

However, the Church constantly remind you that Holy water is not a panacea, and the meaning of the holiday is not that. By the way, Epiphany water remains after the Epiphany in many churches, and on the other days of the year it can be exactly the same freedom to obtain, but without any queues.

«Someone is strongly motivated to regular walking in the temple, someone practically motivated, and he wants to see the Church as a space like this, let say, Orthodox, spiritual protection from some evil forces, and only a horizon for a man is acceptable — reflects Giants. — Often do not see that the Church not only protects from the negative, but above all seeks to develop the best of all the light that is in man.»

Mass Epiphany bathing and Church Charter

In contrast to the rite of water consecration in the churches after the Liturgy on Christmas eve, the evening trips to the hole of the faithful, prayers and bathing in the consecrated waters of the baptismal night is not belong to the actual Church tradition. This Charter does not prescribe. Moreover, some clergy even warn against such practices.

«First, not all have the appropriate health, says priest Mikhail Zheltov. — We do not live on the shores of the Mediterranean sea. Second, Epiphany bathing in recent years, turned into the present of superstition: someone, for example, believes that a simple bathing in the ice hole, even in sanctified water, forgives all sins, though the Church does not teach such. Some believe that after diving into the hole it is imperative to drink strong, and it can not be combined with fasting before the great feast. Generally, in the Charter of the Church is missing any mention of such action, and some adherents point out that it is in some ways even contrary to the ancient canons of the Church.»

In old Russia in the eve of the Epiphany water is consecrated in the temple. This water then was distributed to the parishioners at home and was considered a great sanctuary. In the day of the Baptism was made a festive procession to the river. MDA teacher notices that the tradition of Epiphany bathing, and mostly at night, has become a «mass — mass is already in the post: this is such a popular Orthodoxy.»

Indeed, now every year the Federal and regional authorities will publish official data on how many believers will take part in swimming and many people will provide their security, which sites and where equipped, what facilities, in addition to hot tea, organize from rivers and reservoirs. The same detailed report is made and after the festivities. All this is widely covered in the media.

However, by itself this tradition is not new. Similar customs, adds Michael, there are in different countries. «In the Balkans, a common tradition of diving for a cross that the priest throws into the water with her dedication: men compete who first will get it. On the Greek island of Lefkada in the water throw a lot of oranges, and then they are considered «blessed». And so on. Well, in our latitudes, oranges are not growing, but the usual cold, hence bathing in the hole».

The Abbot Pyatnitsky monastery in Sergiev Posad, too, notices that his parish does not practice hikes «to the Jordan». Although the father, Paul against it has nothing.

«This is people’s interpretations of the holiday, which may not carry any negative undertones, contrary to the Christian faith itself and to be rather controversial, if not more close to some, even heretical views. Therefore, here we assume a large enough freedom of everyone to act according to the dictates of his own conscience and in accordance with the understanding of why he does it,» says the priest.
«Miracle on demand»?

As a reaction to such a controversial «interpretation» of the holiday a few days ago released a letter ruling Bishop of the diocese of Kurgan the Kurgan-Belozersk and Metropolitan Joseph. In the document published on the website of the diocese, Epiphany bathing in the hole named «entered into wide circulation through the media folk tradition».

However, like the Metropolitan, consecrated water is commonly taken home for reverent use, and not to bathe in it. While Bishop Joseph quoted recently reissued the «Handbook for the sacred Church Ministers» of Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944).

«To swim in the winter so you can ask for from God, a miracle, or completely ignore life and health, — wrote Bulgakov. — It goes without saying that such practices are described as violating the sacredness of the occasion and contrary to the spirit of true Christianity can never be tolerated and must be destroyed.»

With that in mind, the Diocesan Council of the diocese of Kurgan made a decision: «If local authorities are willing to take care for the organization and conduct of this folk custom, the parishes of the diocese can provide the needed assistance». By the same parishes and clergy, said the bishops, «should not be the initiators and organizers» of such events that have no basis in the Charter of the Church.

Though, said Metropolitan Joseph, just «to sanctify the nature of water» in rivers, ponds, lakes, springs and wells in memory of the Baptism of the Lord, of course, can and should be. Where it does not violate the sanitary-epidemiological norms.

The Meaning Of Baptism

— …the whole point after all, Baptism is night…

— No. There is no such meaning!

Overheard a couple on the eve of the fragmentary phrases from the conversation of a boy and a girl streaked past me waiting for a train in the Moscow metro and animatedly talking with each other, perhaps, most clearly reflects the breaking of the Baptism in the secular national consciousness, including the consciousness of today’s youth. © RIA Novosti / Maxim to Aminopherase in photobacteria in the lake of the Valday Iversky monastery Svyatoozerskaya Epiphany eve: why is the Church not commanded to jump into the hole© RIA Novosti / Maxim to Aminopherase in photobacteria in the lake of the Valday Iversky monastery Svyatoozerskaya