The 2012 dove bearer is Anna Athanasatos. She was chosen from hundreds of young ladies because of her devotion to the church and her strong moral foundation. This honor is an important part of the celebration as it is the dove bearer’s role to release the dove preceding the dive for the cross. This white dove is chosen specifically to represent the Holy Spirit.
TARPON SPRINGS - The Baptism of Jesus Christ by St. John the Baptist in the River Jordan will be celebrated on Friday, Jan. 6, at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs. A litany procession to the Spring Bayou will commence immediately following the church service.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios (primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America), Metropolitan Alexios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta, and Metropolitan Nikitas will be blessing the community with their presence at this year’s observance.
The Rev. Fr. Michael Eaccarino, Dean of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, says, “This most holy event, which is not merely a yearly symbolic re-enactment but a ‘real time’ transformation of nature, is a true blessing for the Tarpon Springs area and the entire world as we become recipients of the true metamorphosis of our environment... We are protected from above.”
Leading up to the feast day, the Blessing of the Fleet is Thursday Jan. 5, around noon. Metropolitan Nikitas 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 in the heart of Tarpon Springs. The blessing will spread from the river into the Gulf of Mexico and the entire world. Both commercial fishermen and recreational boaters will participate.
On Friday 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. in Tarpon Springs.
Following the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Demetrios, hierarchs, clergy, dignitaries and thousands of people will form a litany procession to Spring Bayou. Schoolchildren in traditional costumes, choir members and Greek Folk dance groups from throughout the Tampa Bay Area will lead this procession.
Upon the arrival at the bayou, an invocation is recited. Then a young lady releases a white dove, which is the presence of the Holy Spirit upon all of us.
The Archbishop casts a traditional white wooden cross into the water signifying the full immersion of an orthodox baptism. Sixty young men will dive in the cold waters seeking the honor of retrieving it. The retriever, along with the other young men, will kneel to receive the Archbishop’s blessing and then he will be carried on the shoulders of his fellow divers back to St. Nicholas Cathedral.
Following the ceremony, an Epiphany Glendi (festival) with food, drink, live music and dancing will take place at the Spanos-Pappas Community Center Theofilos Hall, 348 N Pinellas Ave. Admission is free and all are welcome.
The Epiphany divers will be honored by the His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios at the Glendi. This follows their traditional walk through the community while singing of the Epiphany psalms and sharing the cross retriever’s trophy with the rest of the faithful.