Epiphany - The Blessing of the Water
By: Catherine Ryczak

Epiphany, which is usually celebrated on January 6th, is a special day in the liturgical calendar. This day, also called the feast of Theophany, celebrates Jesus’ baptism by St. John almost 2000 years ago in the river Jordan.

During the ritual commemorating the baptism of Jesus, water is blessed by the priest to make it holy. The holy water will then grant sanctification, health, cleansing, and blessing to all who touch it, partake of it, or annoint themselves with it.

 

During Epiphany, people traditionally attend a prayer service where the priest blesses water into holy water. Years ago, in the old country, it was customary to go to the nearest river or stream to perform the ritual of the blessing of water. Since Epiphany always occurs in January, a cross would be cut from the ice, and the priest would perform the blessing outdoors in front of the ice cross. After the ceremony, parishioners would take some of the holy water home with them.

This year, IHMS celebrated Epiphany on Tuesday, January 11. Although our school isn’t close to a river, we were still able to revive the tradition of blessing water outdoors next to a large ice cross! And we did it with an outdoor temperature - 31 degrees Celsius!

The IHMS “Festival of Epiphany” service was performed immediately after opening exercises on Tuesday, January 11 by our school chaplain, Father Athanasius McVay, OSBM. The ceremony began in the school gym, and eventually moved outside to the large ice cross in the school yard that was specially constructed the day before. Since it was so cold, the outdoor ceremony only lasted for about 10 minutes.

Father Athanasius McVay, OSBM then did 4 things to bless the water. First, he dipped three different sets of burning triple candles (called the trikirion) into the water.

This commemorates the Lord’s baptism, and the dipping of the candle three times symbolizes that we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Next, Father Athanasius, repeating a prayer, breathed three times over the water in the form of a cross, a gesture of exorcism, purifying the water from contamination and the influence of evil powers.

Then, he made a sign of the cross in the water three times with his fingers while repeating a prayer. This gesture symbolizes the blessing of Jordan as though Christ Himself were touching and blessing the water.

Finally, Father Athanasius repeated a prayer while immersing a cross into the water three times. After a few concluding prayers, the holy water was ready to be used to bless the school.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the students filed back into the school. Father Athanasius then walked around the school with a small group of students and blessed each room with a sprinkle of holy water.

The students, lead by Mrs. Stanowych, sang a hymn throughout this process.

A large metal container of the holy water is kept at the front foyer near the trophy case for anyone interested in taking some home with them. Please bring a container of your choice to school and help yourself.