Epiphany 2019 – Bleasing of Holy Water

The above photo shows the ice cross used in this year’s “Blessing of the Water” ceremony. The ice cross has always been located near the  school’s front entrance, and gradually melts away as the weather warms up.
The Feast of Epiphany is a liturgical event that is celebrated every year on January 6th. Over the past 2000 years, it has evolved to commemorate one of the most significant events in Christendom – the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan river.
Amazingly, it’s still possible today to visit the purported site on the Jordan river where Jesus was baptized. This World Heritage site is in the country of Jordan and very close to the border with Israel.
Click here for more information.
During Epiphany, people traditionally attend a prayer service where the priest blesses regular water into holy water – a “Blessing of the Water” ceremony. Years ago, it was customary to go to the nearest river (symbolic of the Jordan river) where a priest would bless the entire body of water. The ceremony often took place outdoors on a river or lake during the first week of January, so an ice cross was usually constructed for the event.  

 

 A colourful and somewhat surrealistic painting depicting the historical Ukrainian tradition of building an ice cross for Epiphany
IHMS’s first ice cross in 2004
On Wednesday, January 16, 2019, the staff and students of IHMS celebrated Epiphany with a “Blessing of the Water” ceremony. The ceremony was scheduled to begin in the school gym with the actual blessing of the water part of the ceremony planned to take place outdoors by the ice cross. Unfortunately, bitterly cold weather forced the entire ceremony to take place indoors. Just like last year, the ceremony was conducted by the school’s chaplain, Father Isadore Dziadyk, OSBM and his assistant, Father Emilian Ntchak OSBM.
Another view of the ice cross from a different perspective. This year’s cross seems to be stubbier in appearance than previous versions, but it has a beautiful,  intricate design when examined up close. Also, the ice that makes it up is crystal clear. Mr. Picklyk orders a new cross every year from a company that specializes in ice sculptures.

 

After students and staff gathered in the gym, Mr. Picklyk welcomed the two priests who were conducting the Blessing of the Water ceremony – Father Isadore Dziadyk, OSBM and Father Emilian Ntchak OSBM. After explaining the historical significance of the ceremony to the students, Mr. Picklyk then directed a group of students to symbolically deliver pitchers water to the two priests.

 

The Blessing of the Water ceremony was directed by Mr. Picklyk (top photo); Father Isadore Dziadyk, OSBM and Father Emilian Ntchak OSBM performed the ceremony (second and third photos); and students symbolically delivering water to the two priests (bottom two photos).

 

In order to bless the water, Father Isadore and Father Emilian invoked the Holy Spirit to come upon the water, and then did four triple blessings over the water. The first blessing involved the use of 3 triple candlesticks called Trikirion.

 

 trisk2
A  Trikirion

The Trikirion

The trikirion is a large three-branched candle used by Ukrainian Catholic priests while blessing water on the Feast of Theophany. The trikirion has a flat base so that it can stand upright. Above this base is a vertical shaft terminating in three candle holders, with each candle representing the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

 

He did a triple blessing with a Trikirion

A Trikirion stands for the Holy Trinity. Jesus is the Great Light, and when immersed, the burning candle (the Lord) sanctifies the water (the world).

He did a triple blessing with his hand

The hand is a concrete, physical way in which the water is blessed. This symbolizes the fact that God is with us in a concrete way through the humanity of Jesus.

He did a triple blessing with his breath

Breathing over the water, the priest asks the Holy Spirit to come upon the water. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the water is blessed.

He did a triple blessing with the immersed cross

The cross represents Jesus’ personal descent into the water.

 

Mrs. Stanowych, the school’s music teacher, lead a choral group during the ceremony. After the water was blessed, Mrs. Stanowych’s choir followed the priests as they sprinkled holy water throughout the school. To enlarge the bottom photo, click here.

 

At this point, the blessing of the water ceremony was over, and the students were dismissed back to their classrooms. Father Isadore and Father Emilian soon followed, walking around the school with a small group of students and blessed each room with a sprinkle of the newly blessed holy water. The students, lead by Mrs. Stanowych, sang a hymn throughout this process.

 

 
What’s the logical thing to do with several liters of freshly blessed holy water? You use it, of course! And that’s exactly what Father Emilian did. With assistance from Father Isadore, he blessed each and every room in the school with a sprinkle of holy water. Father Emilian also stepped out the back door to bless two important areas outside the school – the playground and the back lane. This was a wise decision because these two areas, especially the playground, are where most student accidents and conflicts occur. As Father Isadore and Father Emilian blessed each room in the school with holy water, they were followed by Mrs. Stanowych and her choral group who sang a hymn throughout the process.

 

The holy water that was left over from the ceremony is kept in the front foyer near the trophy case for anyone interested in taking some home with them. It can be used for blessing your home or car, and can even be used for drinking. Please bring a container of your choice to school and help yourself.

 

Self serve holy water is located in the front foyer of the school near the end of the trophy case

 

 

Mrs. Stanowych’s choral group posing next to this year’s ice cross immediately after the blessing of the water service. Accompanying the choral group are Mr. Picklyk, Father Isadore Dziadyk, OSBM, and Father Emilian Ntchak OSBM. The choral group wasn’t finished singing for the day – they were scheduled to carol at four different locations later that afternoon! Click here to enlarge.