Romanian Christians celebrate Epiphany

Catholic, eastern rite Catholic and Orthodox Christians celebrate Epiphany, called also Theophany (especially by the Eastern Christians), on Jan 6, marking the end of the winter holidays tide, through the water purification rite. But Epiphany has also different meanings for the Catholic vs. the Orthodox Christians, informs Agerpres.

On this holiday, Catholic Christians primally commemorate principally the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus, His manifestation to the Gentiles; whereas the Eastern (Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians commemorate the Baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist, the Prophete, in the Jordan River, seen as His manifestation to the world as the Son of God. But in both denominations, the essence of the feast is the same: the manifestation of Christ to the world (whether as an infant or in the Jordan), and the Mystery of the Incarnation, and acknowledgement of Jesus as the Messiah.

In Romania, Theophany celebrates the baptism in the Jordan River of Jesus Christ, when 30 of age, before coming into public life.

On Theophany, the Orthodox Churches perform the Great Blessing of Waters, the Theophany Water symbolizing the cosmic regeneration, when the Earth receives the seeds of the new creation, transfigured through the blessing of the waters. Following the Divine Liturgy, the clergy and people go in a Crucession (procession with the cross) to the nearest body of water, be it a beach, harbor, quay, river, lake, swimming pool, water depot, etc. (ideally, it should be a body of “living water”), and in the end of the ceremony the priest blesses the waters, by casting a cross into the water. Several men may try to recover the cross, and the person who gets the cross first, swims back and returns it to the priest, who then delivers a special blessing to the swimmer and his household, the winner being believed he enjoys more immunity to diseases. Priests and vicars call at every home and bless them and their dwellers by sprinkling with Theophany Water. Theophany is also named the Festival of Lights, because through the contact with the Theophany Water, Christians assume positive humanity, through the renewal of the Holy Spirit, the Baptism being the ritual of initiation into Christianity and of joining the Church.

Epiphany has both Christian and traditional folk meanings. Practices such as the sprinkling with Theophany Water or baptizing along with lay rituals of chasing away the malefic spirits, or washing and diving in rivers and lakes, shooting, lighting fires, smoking the places, the people, the cattle and the households, are all prevalent.

Likewise, Epiphany includes motifs specific to every new year, namely the locals go singing and well wishing, work black magic or spell chants, predict weather, or try finding out their destined bride or bridegroom, or make crop predictions. It is said that Heaven opens, animals talk and wolves help humans to fight and chase away the bad spirits as it is the wolves only that can see them, chase and tear them off, on the Epiphany.

On the same day, it happens the Chiraleisa, (the word originating in the Greek Kyrie Eleison, meaning Have Mercy). It is a purification ritual, when rich crops are evoked, and children, boys and girls, organize it after the carols’ pattern. On the eve or even on the Epiphany Day, small groups of kids enter the villagers’ yards, go round the houses, the stables, the barns, and they ring small and big bells and sing good wishes for rich crops. The boys wear basil, fir, mistletoe or willow leaves at their hats and caps, such herbs being given plenty of meanings. In other areas, in Romania, kids carry fancy breads and candles, go three times round the houses, and ask St. Alexie, in charge with fine weather, in March, to make rich crops and harvests possible, in the new year.

Beside Christmas, Epiphany is one of the most popular holidays for Romanians. In older times, every year, the Theophany used to be lavishly celebrated in Wallachia, and the divine service of the Theophany Water was always performed by the Municipalities’ Metropolitan Bishops, and was attended by the ruling prince, courtiers and mobs alike.


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