Thousands of people from Greek Orthodox parishes in Sydney braved the smoky conditions and rainfall that occurred, attending this year's Epiphany celebrations at Yarra Bay on Sunday, January 12, 2020.
According to three of the four gospels, the Great and Holy Feast of Epiphany (Theophany) celebrates the revelation of God when, during the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist at the Jordan River, the voice of God is heard from Heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved- with you I am pleased.” It is also the time when the divine presence known as the Holy Trinity came into being; in addition to God and his Son, the Holy Spirit was present, too, arriving in the form of a dove.
During this year's event, the thought was focused on the firefighters, volunteers, families, communities and victims of the devastating fires which have been affecting Australia since September.
This year marked Archbishop Makarios’ first year officiating the Epiphany celebrations, since becoming the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
His Eminence officiated the Blessing of the Waters ceremony and after sanctification prayers, threw the Holy Cross into the water.
Over 100 swimmers ran and swam into the water with hopes of retrieving the Holy Cross. This year, victory was claimed by a 27-year-old, Anastasios Bakoulis, from the Parish of St Gerasimos in Leichhardt.
It was Anastasios' 10th year diving in for the Holy Cross.
"You are not lucky, you are blessed," the Archbishop told Anastasios Bakoulis once he emerged from the water.
His Eminence blessed all the swimmers one by one, and during this speech highlighted the meaning of diving for the Holy Cross. As he explained, this is not just a symbolic event or a tradition followed in the villages in Greece and repeated in Australia, it is an exhortation to all Christians to make meaningful changes in their lives.
The religious event was followed by a Greek Glendi with Greek music, traditional Greek dancing performances and food stalls.
Despite the heavy rainfall that occurred throughout the day, everyone felt happy and blessed, welcoming the rain especially during a time where Australia is experiencing devastating fires and fire fighters are struggling to extinguish them.
As the rain continued to fall from the sky, Archbishop Makarios invited everyone present to stand in the rain without umbrellas and join together in prayer, asking God for more rain to end the bushfires ravishing the country.
This year's Epiphany celebration was also charitable, with money raised during the event going to those affected by the bushfires, organised by the members of the Central Youth Committee of the Archdiocese.
*Images by Nick Bourdaniotis/Bourdo Photography (Copyright) and George Chronopoulos (where stated)
Ta Fota, one of Greece’s holiest and most sacred celebrations