What is Theophania?
Theophania (also known as the Holy Epiphany) is one of the most important days in the Greek Orthodox calendar. It is an Orthodox Feast Day celebrating the baptism of Jesus.
The Greek word theophany means: “appearance of God” or “manifestation of Christ”.
You can learn more about Theophania by listening to this podcast by Fr. Chris Metropulos: The Party’s Not Over – Come Receive The Light or by reading this article from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia: Theophany of Christ Our Lord.
When is Theofania?
Technically the Church celebrates Theophania on the 6th of January every year. In Greece, this day is still considered to be a part of the holiday season (as Christmas begins on the 25th of December and does not end until the 6th of January). Most people don’t have to go to work on this day, so they have the opportunity to attend the Church service and then the blessing of the waters down at the local beach.
However here in Australia, the work year has already began and holidays are over. It is for this reason that most Australian Orthodox Churches will host the blessing of the waters on the weekend that follows January 6. This year, 2015, the first Sunday that follows the Holy Epiphany is Sunday 11th January.
The Blessing of the Waters
After the Church liturgy, everyone heads down to the beach or the closest water source. A wooden cross is thrown into the water and swimmers race in a competition to find it. The person who finds the cross is the winner. He wins good luck and is blessed with prosperity for the new year.
After the race, there is usually a full day of celebration which sometimes include a feast of Greek food, Greek dancing and entertainment for the whole family. You will also see a release of white doves which have an important symbolic meaning.
Only Men Can Dive For The Cross
In all of the years that I have attended Theofania, I have never seen a female swimmer. It is not allowed. Only men are allowed to dive for the cross.
Children Have Their Own Race
At my Church, children are also encouraged to participate in the annual tradition of diving for the cross. The kids have their own race, separate to the adults.
Children under the age of 12 compete against each other. In the children’s race, young girls are allowed to participate.
However, as soon as a young girl is old enough to have her period, she is no longer allowed to participate in the race (despite her age).
Why Can’t Women Dive For The Cross?
I have tried to find an answer to this question. Why can’t women participate in the race and dive for the cross?
Is it because we don’t know how to swim?
Is it because it is too dangerous?
Is it because we belong in the kitchen?
Is it because the men will get upset if a woman wins the race?
Or is there some other logical, justified reason that I’m missing?
I hope that i don’t offend anyone when I write this, but we live in a modern age where woman can do anything that men can do. Women compete in the Olympic games, women have the right to vote, women are allowed to drive and women can go to school to get an education. So why are women not allowed to compete in an event that is so important in the life of the Church?
Can We Have A Women’s Race?
We have a separate race for the kids, so can we also have a separate race for women? Or will this beautiful tradition continue to be a male only event?
I’d love to know your thoughts on this.
Please leave a comment below.
All photos in this blog post have been captured by Maria Zark Photography and are published on a community Facebook page in Melbourne Australia. Become a fan of the page by following this link: Melbourne Theofania Community
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