TARPON SPRINGS - The annual celebration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ by St. John the Baptist in the River Jordan is Thursday, Jan. 6, at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs.
A procession to Spring Bayou will commence immediately following the church service for the Blessing of the Waters and Cross retrieval.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta, will be among the participants in this year’s observance, said the Reverend Fr. Michael Eaccarino, Dean of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. “This holy event is not merely a yearly symbolic reenactment but a ‘real time’ transformation of nature. Therefore, we, here in the Tarpon Springs area, become recipients of the true metamorphosis of our environment. We are protected from above.”
Leading up to the feast day, is the Blessing of the Fleet on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 11 to noon. Clergy will bless the fisherman, their vessels and the water in which they travel, and wish them safe and prosperous journeys. The service will occur at the Sponge Docks on the Anclote River, which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. Both commercial fishermen and recreational boaters will participate.
On Jan. 6, Epiphany observances begin at 8 a.m. with Orthros (Matins) followed by the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral at 10 a.m. The cathedral is located at 36 N. Pinellas Ave.
Following the Divine Liturgy and Great Blessing of the waters, Archbishop Demetrios, hierarchs, clergy, dignitaries and thousands of people will form a procession to Spring Bayou, with school children in traditional costumes, choir members, Greek Folk dance groups from throughout the Tampa Bay Area.
After an invocation, a young lady releases a white dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit to fly over the Bayou. An additional 105 doves will then be released celebrating the 105 years the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon Tarpon Springs.
The Archbishop will cast a white cross into the water and about 78 young men will dive for the cross, each seeking the honor of retrieving it. The retriever then kneels with the cross before the Archbishop for a blessing.
Following the ceremony, an Epiphany Glendi (festival) with food, drink, live music and dancing begins at the Spanos-Pappas Community Center Theofilos Hall 348 N. Pinellas Ave. Admission is $3. There will also be shows of traditional Greek dancing performed by the Levendia, the nationally award winning Greek dance troupe in addition to children’s games and activities.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios at the Glendi will honor the Epiphany divers and the cross victor and divers will be there throughout the day’s festivities.