Cold Weather Did not Hinder Epiphany Celebration in Tarpon Springs
Jan 7, 2014
Tarpon Springs, Fla. – The chilly wind blowing from the North and cloudy skies, uncharacteristic weather for Florida, could not hamper the celebrations for the Feast of Theophany, the Feast of Lights. The 108-year old tradition of the large Greek Orthodox Community of St. Nicholas Cathedral in the Epiphany City went according to plan, except for the litany procession from the Church to the Spring Bayou which took a shorter route this year to compensate for the cold weather.
Archbishop Demetrios of America presided at the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy with Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta and Bishop Sevastianos of Zela concelebrating, while assisted by more than a dozen clergy. The glorious Cathedral of St. Nicholas was overflowing with faithful Orthodox Christians.
Following the conclusion of the liturgy, the Archbishop led the service of the Great Agiasmos, the sanctification of the waters and the blessing of the faithful with holy water. The service is truly a holy event during which the Holy Spirit sanctifies the water and those faithful who partake of it.
Forty-three young men, ages 16-18 years-old, had already taken their positions in front of the church as the procession formed. School children in traditional costumes, choir members, Greek Folk dance groups from throughout the Tampa Bay Area, the hierarchs, clergy, altar boys, dignitaries and thousands of people comprised an impressive mosaic, as they took a shorter route than in past years, to save the young children and the divers from unnecessary exposure to the elements. Once the procession reached the scenic cove of Spring Bayou, where surprisingly several thousand people were waiting, Archbishop Demetrios gave his blessing to the young men kneeling in front of him and off they ran and jumped in the water, struggling to get their place in one of the dinghies forming a semi-circle in the bayou. Sixteen-year old Joi Theophilopoulos, the granddaughter of the late Fr. Tryfon Theophilopoulos who served in the St Nicholas Cathedral for almost 30 years, was the dove bearer this year and she released the dove as the Gospel was read. Shortly after, Archbishop Demetrios threw the white wooden cross into the water. The boys dove and swam as fast as they could. Soon enough 18-year old Peter (Petros) Smith emerged holding the white cross in his right hand raised above the water. He came out of the water, kneeled before the Archbishop and received his blessing and the Epiphany trophy. His fellow shivering divers then carried him on their shoulders as a gesture of comradery and respect.
The Epiphany Glendi (festival) began shortly after at the Spanos-Pappas Community Center Theofilos Hall, with food, drink, live music and dancing.
Peter (Petros) Smith, the moment he retrieved the Cross. (photos © Dimitrios Panagos/GOA)
For a photo gallery: http://photos.goarch.org/main.php?g2_itemId=8735