For 115 years, large crowds have turned out at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral and at Spring Bayou in Tarpon Springs for the traditional throwing of the Holy Cross.
However due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's celebration was scaled back.
Only St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral parishioners and family members of the divers were allowed to attend.
"The boys have dreamt about this all their lives because their dads have done it. Their grandfathers have done it. There's so much tradition in retrieving the cross," said Johanna Kossifidis, spokesperson for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America attended the 115th Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs.
During His blessing of the Spring Bayou before the dive, His Eminence also prayed for frontline workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
We bless these waters today, and we bless your lives with the Cross. You are all blessed by its Sacred Immersion today. Lift up the Cross in your hearts and your souls. As you dive into the depths to retrieve it, know that Its holy power can lift you to your eternal salvation. pic.twitter.com/fUHTdZgUjj
— Elpidophoros (@Elpidophoros) January 6, 2021
Sakadales who dove into the Spring Bayou with 54 other boys, found the Holy Cross in less than a minute.
When he emerged with the cross, he told attendees that when he opened his eyes underwater, he saw the white cross appear to be glowing.
“Here I am with it, honestly I don’t believe it... I feel very blessed," he continued.
Colten Sakadales happens to be the younger brother of the cross retriever from last year, Hunter Sakadales. It's the first time in 115 years that two brothers have retrieved the cross back-to-back.
On January 6 the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Epiphany, commemorating the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, and the divine revelation of the Holy Trinity.
At the Baptism of Christ, all three Persons of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—were made manifest. Thus, the name of the Feast is Epiphany, meaning manifestation, or Theophany, meaning manifestation of God.