The blessing of water on the feast of Jordan which celebrates Christ’s baptism is a very special time of the year in the church in Australia.
In Ukraine, the 19th of January is in the middle of the winter season. This blessing occurs in frozen rivers or creeks where the ice is cut in the form of a cross. In Australia, January 19th tends to be one of the hottest days of the year. Water is blessed outdoors in large tubs, not in frozen rivers.
In our parishes, celebrations begin on January 18th. People come to the church for Theophany Vespers. Bread, oil, and wheat are blessed. The bread is then shared by all the people at the anointing of the Holy oils.
In most of our parishes all present then proceed to the parish hall for the holy supper. The menu is almost the same as it is on Christmas Eve. This includes kutia, varenyky, and the other dishes, some families share this meal at home with family and friends, but many share a meal which is prepared by the parish. Carolling is the main feature of the evening but the sharing of best wishes is an important part of it as well.
On the actual day itself, the 19th of January, our churches tend to be full to overflowing. The choir sings and all the customs and traditions are kept. Water blessing takes part in front of the missionary cross besides the church. The congregation is blessed with the holy water. Later that day or the next the priests and deacons start the annual blessing of each home in the parish.
In Melbourne, January 19th is concluded with lunch in the parish hall. This year the focus of this gathering was the events in Kyiv at the Maidan. Live TV was broadcast on the huge screens in the Joseph Slipyj parish hall.
The whole weekend was another occasion to have the parish and community together. Judging from the reaction of the people it was a very successful weekend indeed!