The Great Agiasma
- An article
by Nikita Polenov on the feast of the Lord’s Epiphany in Brooklyn
before the glorious feast, many well-meaning priests from the depths
of Russia inquired with some nervousness of our rector, Priest Vadim:
Will there be a blessing of the waters of that great Ocean, for the
benefit of the spiritual and physical well-being of Russian sailors
braving its waters? After all, not many Orthodox parishes can be found
on the banks of this major sea!
We hasten to calm
these worthy pastors – the great Mystery was performed, and a grand
Jordan spread across planet Earth, swallowing the whole Atlantic. From
the ice-bound shores of Greenland and Antarctica to the burning sands
of the beaches of Brazil and Africa are obliterated the heads of the
serpents that dwell in the waters.
This great and
grace-filled event has by custom been foreshadowed on the preceding
day by the marvelous service of Theophany Eve, the Great Compline, and
Matins, after which, by the rite of Baptism, this year five human
souls were united to Holy Orthodoxy.
By wondrous means,
each of them in their uniqueness bears witness to the special mission
of our young parish – to be a unifying Light of Truth in the
Babylonian chaos of the tongues and cultures of the Capital of the
World. Through the baptismal font, homeless vagrants and successful
businessmen, young people and the elderly, Jews and Gentiles,
yesterday’s atheists and followers of other faiths are united to our
family as one. Despite the vastness of the Atlantic, the life paths of
the newly illumined stretch even further, from the tropics of Trinidad
and the depths of Asia, to flow together for all time in the humble
Church of Our Lady "The Inexhaustible Chalice" in Brighton.
The Great Blessing
of the Water and crucession approached. I remember when, not long ago,
we, a small group with banners and icons, dared for the first time to
disturb the spiritual sleep of this wild place, greeted for the most
part with barely concealed enmity and the jeering laughter of the
local inhabitants. And yet, one year and some days hence, how
different is the attitude of these streets toward us! Many, very many
oncomers cross themselves in earnest, piously approaching to venerate
the holy images we bore. …"O Christ our God, Who hast
appeared!.." – so resound the words of the festal troparion,
trumping the clang of the subway trains.
And so, at last, on
the banks, upon performing the appropriate readings, by the tracing,
blowing, and immersion of the Holy Cross, the Mystery is committed,
and the physical eyes follow the trembling heart and all but observe
the unfurling of the low, overcast skies, and the descent of the
Angelic Hosts, row after row, tearing down the partition between the
empyreal world and the terrestrial, and God’s Spirit Himself,
"in the form of a dove," blessing the salty font of the sea.
As if feeling the warm wave of grace, the seagulls came with their
whole retinue to the place of our prayer, echoing by their wide
circling arcs that invisible Angelic march. The skies open up
perfectly clearly now, and through the opening window in the clouds,
the light of the sun flows through to the cold waters below.
For the salvation
of soul and health of body, the courageous plunge into the chilly
water. The Great Agiasma graciously accepts these bold ones. Christ is Baptized! In the River Jordan!
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