By Kostas Onisenko
“It must be stressed that the immersion in water was a symbolic sign of repentance, but it did not replace it and it cannot replace it. Purification from sins, blessing and enlightenment do not come from water, but from faith in God and sincere, true repentance before Him. And water means externally, physically, what is achieved internally, spiritually, but not the other way around.”
These were – among other things – the words of Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv and All Ukraine during his sermon yesterday, when the Orthodox of Eastern Europe celebrated the Holy Epiphany.
Yesterday, tens of thousands of Ukrainians dived into the icy waters of rivers, lakes, and the Black Sea, following an old Eastern European Christian custom.
The fact that in many areas the temperature dropped below -15 degrees Celsius did not prevent even young children from following their favorite custom. In most areas, the waters were covered with a thick layer of ice, and worshipers dived into specific areas where openings had been made for this purpose.
Metropolitan Epifaniy performed the Blessing of the Waters on the Dnieper River in Kyiv. Clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church performed the Great Sanctification rite in most cities and villages of Ukraine.