Monday, 4 January 2010

Blessing of the waters for Epiphany

Water fell not in liquid but in frozen snowflake form in Geneva overnight and it was cold in the chapel this morning as Father Daniel Buda and his fellow priest from the Romanian Orthodox community in Geneva led us in the traditional Orthodox blessing of the waters for epiphany and the beginning of the calendar year. The service included beautiful chanting and prayers which came in a mixture of French and Romanian today, and the reading of the whole of chapter 35 from the book of Isaiah.
At the end after the waters have been blessed the priest vigorously sprinkles the purified waters and blesses the building and the people.
We encouraged people to say whether they wanted their offices blessed and afterwards we toured the building blessing the offices, beginning appropriately enough at the offices of the Ecumenical Water Network.
It was good going around the building blessing the offices, wishing people a happy new year, taking epiphany out of the chapel. There were moving moments too blessing the place where our cleaning staff work from, blessing the office of a colleague currently on sick leave and blessing the office of the WCC's new general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit with both water and specially sung prayers. Next Monday will be his first day in the office.

You can see stunning photos of a much colder blessing of the waters here on the Keeping the Faith site. The photos by Peter Williams come from Finland where the waters are blessed by a hole being cut into the ice - an ice sculpture cross is made next to the hole and the waters are then blessed by the priest lowering a cross into the waters to purify them before also sprinkling the people with the water.
What I love about the January ritual in Finland is that those who take part in the service walk on the water (on the frozen ice) to get to the ice cross and water hole. Wonderful imagery.
May you too be blessed as Christmas moves into Epiphany.