On 6th January 2010 many people gathered at the city seafront to watch the Benediction of the Waters and the cast of the Holy Cross at the gulf of Thermaikos, to be retrieved by some daring young men.
25 year old Giorgos Ypsilantis was the most courageous of all men who dived into the cold waters to fetch the Holy Cross. He admitted that God’s blessing and benediction were his motives to become the one who would fetch the Holy Cross. Before the eyes of the his Eminence the Metropolitan and the archons of the city, Yiorgos wished that “his luck will continue and that he would be able to find a job”.
The Epiphany celebration - Benediction of the Waters in the port of Thessaloniki
According to the Orthodox Church, the Benediction of the Waters is a ritual to represent Jesus’ Baptism in the waters of river Jordan. During the ritual, the priest consecrates the waters with Benedictions, invokes the Holy Spirit and dips the Holy Cross in the waters three times. The whole process is found in a special book called “A Small Collection of Benedictions”.
After the ritual, the water is considered consecrated and the priest sprinkles the people with it, using a basil twig which he dips into it. The ritual takes place in all the cities and the towns of the country. During the ritual, the Holy Cross is thrown into the sea and followers dive in to fetch it, as aforementioned. In the case of a city or a town that is far from the seafront, rivers, lakes or even ponds and aquaducts are used instead.
Benediction of the Waters in the port of Thessaloniki 2008 - Markos Patsavoukis
The second panoramic image comes from the same ceremony in back in 2008. The “winner” then was Markos Patsavoukis 29 years old, that finally made to catch the Holy Cross first, after having attempted again the last years