I know what you’re all thinking, “Is he joking, or just a moron who doesn’t know what day it is.” And while I refuse to comment on whether or not I’m a moron, I will say with abject certainty that I do indeed know what today is. And yes, it’s Christmas. Now that we’re clear that I do, in fact, know that today is January the sixth, let us move on to why I’m saying this.
For Eastern Catholics today is the feast of the Theophany, that is, the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. This is the last day of the Christmas season, and just as the first day is brought in with a great celebration, the last day is seen out with a great celebration, a week long celebration.
Most Christians hardly notice the celebration, since in the West it has been placed on the Sunday after the Epiphany many simply say “Oh, we’re going to Mass because it’s a Sunday,” and only give the most passing of notices to this great feast. But for Eastern Christians, this is a most joyous celebration, lot’s of singing, yelling, candles, incense, (incense, more incense… did I mention incense?), you know, the normal sort of things for us Byzantines. The largest part of the celebration involves the blessing of the water. Not only is Jordan Water (Holy water, for the Romans) blessed today, but also any large body of water that is accessible.
Part of this rite involves the priest dropping the blessing cross into the water, and a parishioner lucky enough to make it to the water first retrieves it. This is a beautiful practice that for some communities has given rise to the most ballsy practice I have ever seen, and proof that Russians are just more manly than many of us can ever hope to be: