Baptism at Raifa: strong parishioners and Metropolitan’s wishes for peace and conciliation
Blessing of water and church services took place at night on 19 January. Hundreds of people gathered in the Raifa Virgin Monastery. Blessing of water was performed by Metropolitan of Kazan and Tatarstan Feofan in the Raifa Lake.
''You did well having kept the vigil''
It was a midnight. Raifa was full of more people than it usually hosts. Cars arrived one after another. A flow of people moved towards them – to collected water in the chapel of the monastery.
The monastery was festively adorned: illumination was everywhere; a big screen was near the bell tower. The screen transmitted the festive church service from the Troitsky Cathedral chaired by Metropolitan of Kazan and Tatarstan Feofan. Hundreds of people – those who could not get inside — stood near the screen. The yard of the monastery was also full of people. A long queue to the chapel where people collect water was formed. Almost all people had empty vessels in their hands.
The Troitsky Cathedral was almost full. It is still adorned with New Year trees and had a nativity with biblical characters near the wall on the right. The church services ended at 1.30 a.m. Communion was next. There were many people going to Communion. Boys in identical black suits and white shirts who were festive and serious and stood aside were among them. They are pupils of the monastery's infant school.
Communion ended. Metropolitan Feofan addresses the parishioners from the ambo: ''Dear brothers and sisters, I congratulate you on Epiphany! You did well having kept the vigil. Now we will calmly go to bless the water all together.'' The procession left the cathedral, people who stood outside joined it. Bell started to ring. Photos of the procession were seen on the screen near the bell tower.
Blessing in the lake appeared on vicar of the monastery Archimandrite Vsevolod's initiative when Raifa started its renascence. The procession usually went to the lake on 19 January after liturgy. The tradition changed last year. The first night church service has taken place under His Grace Feofan.
It has been the first Baptism without Archimandrite Vsevolod who passed away in August last year. But the traditions he laid are so strong that the celebration is held like it was before. In the tsar era, there was the following order in naval fleet: when the commander of the ship was going to be given the next award, he was suddenly taken to the bank, and the team left alone. If it was not confused and could do its job without its commander, he got his award. If there were panic and anarchy, he did not get it. The team created by the first vicar of the monastery during these years and supported by His Grace Feofan now works as a team. It is the best memory of Father Vsevolod and continuance of the work of all his life.
''Peace and conciliation''
The lake was adorned with ice sculptures, as usual: crystal temples, flying angels and a big ice cross near the hole. An ambulance was on duty downhill the lake. Workers of the Russian Emergencies Ministry and police were everywhere. People from the Orthodox youth circle were their helps. They could be recognised by green jackets they had over their coats.
Prayer started. His Grace spoke to the microphone. He was heard even in remote parts of the monastery. The very blessing of water was transmitted on the screen. Hundreds of people who were not allowed to hit the ice for safety reasons and to avoid a squeeze watched it.
Then the metropolitan got closer to the hole and submerged the golden cross with a long chain to water – the water in the lake was blessed. ''I congratulate all people on Epiphany again! Now those who want to have a bath can do it but do with piety,'' His Grace addressed the people.
Then there were several minutes of a traditional talk to the young, and Metropolitan Feofan, as usual, turned this protocol media scrum into a bright propagation.
''What does Baptism mean to a religious person? Very Jesus Christ was christened. Who was Christ? God and person. Why did he come to the Earth? To save the humankind that committed sins in the infancy of man in Paradise. Adam and Eva whom all people originated from did it. Christ cleans a human body. Christ did not need baptism because he was sinless. He was God and a person. But our body was washed in Jordan waters. It is very important to understand it because Baptism of Christ is our reminder of Christ, reminder that people who were baptised must keep the promises they gave when they were baptised. But it is a message for those who have not been baptised yet. Baptism is a door that one can cross to reach the sky from the Earth,'' His Grace Feofan talked to all people who were in the lake.
In answer to Realnoe Vremya's question where His Grace founded energy because he had three church services on one day, Metropolitan Feofan smiled and replied simply: ''God gives it to me!'' Having congratulated people of Tatarstan on the celebration, he wished for the most important things – peace and conciliation.
A train of cars was approaching Raifa from Kazan: despite it was very late, people went for baptismal water.