Epiphany 2020 – Blessing of Holy Water

A beautifully symbolic photo of a Christian cross set against the background of the rising sun. 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 information on vacation trips to the Jordan river.

 

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.

 

 
The ice cross on a January morning with the windows to the grade 3 classroom in the background.

 

On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, the staff and students of IHMS celebrated Epiphany with a “Blessing of the Water” ceremony. Part of the ceremony took place in the school gym while the actual blessing of the water took place outdoors. The ceremony was conducted by three priests:

  1. Father Isidore Dziadyk, OSBM
  2. Father Ihor Shved
  3. Father Yaroslav

The outdoor portion of the service took place next to a specially constructed ice cross that was set up in the playground.

Another view of the ice cross from a different perspective. This year’s cross had a simple, classic design with crystal clear ice. 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 three priests who were conducting the Blessing of the Water ceremony. 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 priests.

 

In order to create student involvement in the Blessing of the Water ceremony, water from the “Jordan river” was symbolically delivered to the priests by a student from each grade. In the above photo, grade 8 student Josie K. is shown delivering a pitcher of water to the altar.

 

After students delivered water to the priests, the Blessing of the Water ceremony moved from the gym to the ice cross outside. Students and staff prepared for this by bringing their winter clothing down to the gym.

 

 

In order to bless the water, each of the three priests invoked the Holy Spirit to come upon the water. Then,each priest 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.

 

 

 

                   To bless the water into Holy Water, each of the three priests did four triple blessings over the water.

Step 1: Each priest did a triple blessing with the 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).

 

 

Step 2: Each priest did a triple blessing with their 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.

 

 

Step 3: Each priest did a triple blessing with their 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.

 

 

Step 4: Each priest did a triple blessing with the 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. 

 

At this point, the blessing of the water ceremony was over, and the students were dismissed back to their classrooms. The three priests  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.

 

The first use of the Holy Water:

Blessing the school’s new Divine Liturgy books

Holy water has many uses, but Mr. Picklyk decided that its first use in this case should be to bless the school’s brand new Divine Liturgy books. These are the books that the school takes to Sts. Vladimir and Olga Cathedral for our monthly Liturgies. The existing books were getting old and tattered, so Sr. Emily Schietzsch, SSMI (shown in the above photo) donated the money necessary to purchase new books. Sr. Emily Schietzsch, SSMI, who took her final vows last year in 2019, works as an Educational Aide in the Kindergarten room with Ms. Paulic.
 

 

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 the three priests did after blessing the new Divine Liturgy books. The priests blessed each and every room in the school with a sprinkle of holy water. They also quickly stepped out the back door to bless the back lane. As Father Isidore. Father Shved and Father Yaroslav 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 Isidore OSBM. Father Shved OSBM. and Father Yaroslav OSBM. The choral group wasn’t finished singing for the day – they were scheduled to carol at several different locations later that afternoon! Click here to enlarge.