His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Remarks at the Κατάδυσις τοῦ Τιμίου Σταυροῦ on the Holy Theophany
January 6, 2024
Spring Bayou, Tarpon Springs, Florida
Your Eminences, and Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
We are once again come to the Spring Bayou for the Immersion of the Holy and Precious Cross - ἡ Κατάδυσις τοῦ Τιμίου καὶ Ζωοποιοῦ Σταυροῦ.
This yearly ‘baptism’ of the Cross signifies a cosmic event – the redemption of the material world by the God who deigned to become one with His creation, in order to redeem it from sin and from death. Water is the sine qua non of all life as we know it. Without water to nourish our bodies and our world, we would perish in a matter of weeks.
The Cross that is submersed today in the Bayou carries with it all the weight of sin and negativity that has ever entered the world. The Cross can bear this burden, because of the Divine Love that compelled the Lord of Glory to ascend upon it.
But when we see the hand retrieve it – like your own fifty years ago, Your Eminence – and the Cross rise up above the waters, we see the image of the Resurrection. As we sing at Pascha and on virtually every Sunday:
… ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἦλθε διὰ τοῦ Σταυροῦ, χαρὰ ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ.
… for behold, through the Cross, joy has come to all the world. *
Yes, my beloved Christians –
It is through the Cross, and only through the Cross, that we arrive at the Resurrection and the everlasting joy of Life Eternal.
Through sacrificial love;
Through compassion and forgiveness,
Through taking up our own cross on a path of self-denial – which is the diminishment of our egoistic desires, and the increase of care and concern for others.
Thus, we stand here today, ready to baptize the created world through the plunging of the Cross into the waters of creation, for them to be transformed into the waters redemption.
In this ancient rite, we return the Cross to the depths, so that we might witness it once again come up on high.
Therefore, with a heart filled with gratitude and pride …
Photos: GOARCH/Dimitrios Panagos