Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 18 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Daudi Okelo and Bl. Jildo Irwa
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Why Eastern Christians bless lakes, rivers and oceans


Alexey Malgavko | Sputnik | AFP

Philip Kosloski - published on 01/11/20

Around the feast of Epiphany, Orthodox and Byzantine Christians will bless the nearest source of "living water" in commemoration of Jesus' baptism.

While Roman Catholics are accustomed to the annual blessing of water at the Easter Vigil, Eastern Christians perform a similar ceremony on Epiphany. This particular feast day in the Eastern Church has multiple levels to it and one of those is the commemoration of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan.

In addition to a solemn blessing of water within the church building, many Orthodox and Byzantine Christians will schedule a time to bless the nearest source of “living water,” whether it is a lake, river, or even the ocean.

According to one Byzantine parish, “In living our Christian faith we are entrusted with being stewards of all good that God gifts to us. And this includes creation itself. Since water is so vital, we should respect the sources of water, especially closest to us. In Eastern Europe where our ancestors held the tradition of blessing local water, the nearest source of water might have been a small river or stream.”

Orthodox priest Father Simon Thomas adds, “This service asks God to bless each person as well as everyone in the city and region. In most areas, the blessing continues to the main body of water in the area … water can be destructive and overpower a community through floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis. We ask God to bless the waters and keep the balance that leads to life.”

In some regions, such as Eastern Europe, an additional tradition involves the throwing (and retrieving) of a cross into the source of water, to symbolize Christ’s blessing of the Jordan River.

On the blog Greeker than the Greeksthe author offers a brief description of what unfolds.

The tradition is that

 a priest, surrounded by brave young men and boys, throws a cross into the sea, either from the harbor or from a boat at sea; the minute the cross leaves the priest’s hand, the divers jump into the freezing water to catch the cross. The lucky one who finds and returns the cross is blessed by the priest. As the cross is victoriously brought back, the priest releases a white dove, as a symbol of the holy spirit. 
This tradition is carried out to commemorate the baptism of Christ and to bless the waters.

Often a rope will be tied around the cross in places where a dive into the water would be dangerous.

The tradition is a beautiful one with rich symbolism behind it, helping the Christian faithful recall Jesus’ baptism in a very powerful way.


Read more:
Here are the 12 “Great Feasts” that Eastern Christians celebrate each year


Read more:
Looking for an alternative meal prayer? Here is how many Eastern Christians bless their food

Devotions and Feasts

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
Philip Kosloski
Why is the feast of the Holy Cross celebrated on September 14?
Mathilde De Robien
How a lost masterpiece of sacred art was discovered thanks to chi...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been known to f...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.