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Epiphany party, piety come after the plunge

Tarpon Springs will have a festival today and more solemn events Sunday to mark the important Greek Orthodox tradition.

By EILEEN SCHULTE
Published January 7, 2006


TARPON SPRINGS - The wooden cross has been thrown.

And the white dove has flown.

But the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs is far from over.

Today, the Glendi, or festival, continues at the city's Sponge Docks.

Thousands of visitors will feast on baklava, stuffed grape leaves and souvlaki.

They'll listen to bands play traditional Greek music.

And watch as troupes from throughout the United States perform folk dances.

But the Rev. Sebastian Skordallos, archimandrite at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, hopes guests who get caught up in the festivities don't lose sight of the true meaning of this important Orthodox tradition.

"For us, Epiphany is the presence of God in our midst," he said. "It is the baptism of Christ ... (a time when) the Holy Trinity is revealed."

In the Greek Orthodox Church, the day is celebrated with much pomp and circumstance, unlike in the Roman Catholic Church. Orthodox Christianity split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 over disputes about papal supremacy, the Nicene creed and other issues.

Epiphany, which is derived from a Greek word meaning to appear or to show oneself, is celebrated by 250-million people throughout the world.

During the annual event, also called Twelfth Night by some Christians to mark the end of the Christmas season, as well as the Feast of the Holy Theophany ("theophany" meaning manifestation of God), priests on Friday led the faithful to rivers, lakes and seas, splashing holy water to commemorate Jesus' baptism by John, his cousin, in the River Jordan.

In the Bible, it says after Christ rose from the water, heaven opened, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove and a voice came from above and said, "Thou art my beloved son; in thee I am well pleased."

"You see the revelation of God, the Holy Trinity," Skordallos said. "There is a unity in the Holy Trinity that we need to emulate because we are made in the image of God. We are both singular and plural. We need each other. Without each other, we cannot be who we are. The road to salvation is through our neighbors."

In the Bible, the baptism of Christ is recorded in all four Gospels. Although it says Jesus was free of sin and had no need to be baptized, he willingly surrendered to the rite because he said all people should submit their duty and obligation to God.

On the 100th anniversary of Epiphany celebrations in what has come to be known as "Epiphany City," more than 50 teenage boys dived into the water to retrieve an anointed white cross, which is said to bring a blessing.

This year, the ceremony was performed by the worldwide spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church, His All Holiness Bartholomew, who traveled from Istanbul to attend the event.

With the blessed water sprinkled throughout the Earth during Epiphany, "the world is transformed," Skordallos said.

"It brings us back to God."

Eileen Schulte can be reached at 727 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com

IF YOU GO

Today

The Glendi continues from noon to midnight today at the Sponge Docks.

At 7 p.m., Mario Frangoulis will sing with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa.

Sunday

At 8 a.m., the Orthros and Patriarchal Liturgy will be performed by His All Holiness Bartholomew at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 36 N Pinellas Ave.

A patriarchal lunch will be held at noon at the St. Nicholas Cathedral Community Center, 348 N Pinellas Ave. Proceeds benefit the church.

[Last modified January 7, 2006, 01:43:59]


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