BULGARIA, KALOFER : Men dance in the icy winter waters of the Tundzha river in the town of Kalofer as part of the Epiphany Day celebrations on January 6, 2015. As a tradition, an Eastern Orthodox priest throws a cross in the river and it is believed that the one who retrieves it will be healthy through the year as well as all those who dance in the icy waters. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF
Bulgarian men plunge into the icy water of a lake in Sofia, during the Epiphany Day celebrations on January 6th 2016. It is traditional for an Eastern Orthodox priest to throw a cross into the river, in the belief that the swimmer who retrieves it will enjoy good health throughout the coming year. Credit: AFP/Dimitar Dilkoff
UKRAINE, Kiev : An Orthodox believer dips into the icy water of a pond on January 19, 2015 during the celebration of the Epiphany holiday in Kiev. Among Orthodox Christians, the feast of Epiphany celebrates the day the spirit of God descended upon believers in the shape of a dove during Jesus Christ’s baptism in the river Jordan. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY
BULGARIA, Sofia : Bulgarians plunge into the icy winter water
of a lake in Sofia, to catch a cross during the Epiphany Day
celebrations on January 6, 2016. As a tradition, an Eastern Orthodox
priest throws a cross in the river and it is believed that the one who
retrieves it will be healthy through the year as well as all those who
dance in the icy water. / AFP / DIMITAR DILKOFF
BULGARIA, Sofia : Bulgarians dive into the icy waters of a lake to catch a cross in Sofia as part of Epiphany Day celebrations on January 6, 2015. It is believed that the first man to grab the cross, thrown into the water by an Eastern Orthodox priest, will be healthy throughout the year. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF
Greece’s Kissing Gays Defied Neo-Nazis and Bigot Bishops Yesterday
I have always been ambivalent about January 6. It is the day before my birthday, which means I can get presents and get drunk. On the other hand, it is a great celebration of Orthodoxy. Greeks gather at various ports around the country and watch a rather theatrical religious tradition: priests throwing a crucifix into the sea while several young men dive into cold water and attempt to retrieve it for good luck. The day is called Theophany, or Epiphany, and it commemorates the revelation of God in human form through Jesus.
Since I’m an atheist, this whole ritual doesn’t mean much to me. However, this year January 6 got a lot more interesting. I got up early in the morning and joined a group of gay activists, members of Greece’s LGBT community, who gathered at the port of Piraeus to protest against Seraphim, the town’s ultra-conservative Bishop, who is notorious for his homophobic statements. By the time Seraphim tossed his cross into the sea, the assorted Ls, Gs, Bs and Ts were giving each other big gay kisses and handling out leaflets that read: “Love is not a sin.”
Last November, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Greece to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships like straight people can. The Strasbourg-based tribunal ruled that, in not doing so, Athens was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Greece remains the only EU country other than Lithuania to refuse to extend this right to same-sex couples. Seraphim responded to the plans to make Greece join the rest of Europe in the 21st century by stating that “homosexuality is a unnatural aberration not even observed in animals.” A statement that discriminates against the sexual habits of manyalbatrosses, king penguins, dolphins, giraffes, and ancient Greeks.
BULGARIA, Sofia : Men perform a traditional dance in the icy winter waters of the Tundzha river in the town of Kalofer as part of the Epiphany Day celebrations on January 6, 2014. As a tradition, an Eastern Orthodox priest throws a cross in the river and it is believed that the one who retreives it will be healthy trough the year as well as all those who dance in the icy waters. AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV
Today the nature of the waters is sanctified, The Jordan bursts forth and turns back the flood of its streams, Seeing the Master wash Himself.
To the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, You came, O Lord, taking the form of a servant, Asking for baptism though you have no sin. The waters saw You and were afraid. The Forerunner began to tremble and cried out, saying: How shall the lampstand illumine the Light? How shall the servant lay hands upon the Master? Sanctify both me and the waters, O Savior, Who takes away the sins of the world.
A drone is used to deliver a life preserver to members of the Russian Emergencies Ministry during a training exercise in the suburbs of Moscow, on January 13th 2016, in preparation for Russian Orthodox Epiphany celebrations. Orthodox believers mark Epiphany on January 19th by immersing themselves in icy waters and some may get into difficulties. Credit: Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev