Epiphany is the day of celebration for Russian Orthodox Christians that marks the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. For many orthodox believers the icy plunge into the freezing water symbolizes washing away their sins and spiritual renewal.
On Epiphany Eve, priests visit homes and sprinkle them with holy water to celebrate the new year. They also toss a cross into a body of water, such as a lake or river and retrieve it.
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The Feast of the Holy Theophany
The Feast of the Holy Theophany (or Epiphany) celebrates the Baptism of Jesus and the manifestation of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This feast is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Liturgical calendar.
The Orthodox Church teaches that the baptism of Jesus made it clear that he was of divine origin and provided a picture of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
This is why, in remembrance of this event, the Church blesses water on the Feast of Theophany and during times of need throughout the year. On Theophany, clergy visit the homes of parishioners and conduct a service of blessing using the holy water blessed on this feast.
The Feast of Theophany is one of the oldest in the church. It dates back to the fourth century and is still celebrated by Orthodox Christians around the world.
The Feast of St. Nicholas
In the russian orthodox church Saint Nicholas is one of the most loved and revered saints. His ministry during his life and the continuous intercession and miracles that he performs make him a very special and beloved saint for Christians everywhere.
He was a priest, who, as the gospel says, “filled the needs of the people”; he added labors to labors; he kept vigil and fasted; he never tired of serving those in need; he provided for those in distress; he defended and strengthened the weak in faith; he prayed for all who were sick, poor and suffering. He was a great miracle worker and speedy intercessor for those in need, especially those who were in danger.
On December 19, the feast day of St. Nicholas, we celebrated the Divine Liturgy at our monastery in North Ft. Myers, Florida. The abbot, Archimandrite Alexander (Belya), and several of our priests participated in the service.
The Feast of St. Basil
During the fourth century, one of the Fathers of the Church, Saint Basil, appeared on the spiritual horizon. He was born in Caesarea, Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey), and grew up in a pious family that gave many saints to the Church.
He was a lawyer and teacher at first, but soon he felt a call to ascetical life. After traveling through Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia, he came to the Iris River in Pontus where his mother, sister Macrina, and other women were already engaged in ascetical life.
When he became bishop, Basil embraced his new calling with great courage and detachment from worldly affairs and possessions. This helped him cope with the stormy internal affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church that were introduced by government-sanctioned Renovationists in the 20s. His unwavering dedication to his flock, even during times of hardship, proved invaluable in the face of persecution.
The Feast of St. Gregory
Saint Gregory was born at a time when the Arian dispute was at its height. He fought against this heresy and defended Orthodoxy with great courage, as did his brother Basil.
He also compiled the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts in the Latin language, which was affirmed by the Council at Constantinople. He worked tirelessly to spread the Orthodox faith, encouraging the pagans, Goths and the inhabitants of Brittany and France, who had been adherents of the Arian heresy, to embrace it.
Saint Gregory was a great scholar and philosopher, but he was also a true teacher of theology, which he obtained through spiritual experience. He did not theologize in a theoretical way, but he sought to penetrate into the authentic meaning of divine revelation through philosophy. His writings are full of deep wisdom, derived from his ascetic life on Mount Athos. He was a true universal teacher and hierarch, who, in his own times was a bishop of one diocese, but whose spiritual influence extended far beyond his sphere.