Metropolitan Feofan: ''Bathing on Epiphany night should be combined with faith''

Orthodox believers celebrate the Epiphany

Metropolitan Feofan: ''Bathing on Epiphany night should be combined with faith'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Festive services in honour of the Epiphany were held in all Orthodox churches on 19 January. Traditionally, believers go to the place upon the ice for the consecration of water. The main ice hole of the Kazan metropolis is located on the Raifa Lake. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya visited the night worship service.

Angel wings

The Holy Trinity Cathedral, where the festive service is taking place, which is headed by Metropolitan Feofan of Kazan and Tatarstan, is packed. There are many parishioners in the Georgian Cathedral as well, people are lighting candles. One have to wait in line to venerate the main shrine of Raifa — the miraculous Georgian image of the Mother of God.

The monastery yard is decorated; the trees are shimmering with hundreds of lights. Near the Holy Trinity Cathedral, there is a huge angel of snow — like covering the believers from troubles with its wings. There is a huge queue to the chapel with water.

The monastery yard is decorated, the trees are shimmering with hundreds of lights. Near the Holy Trinity Cathedral, there is a huge angel of snow

''The ice is strong, don't be afraid''

Exactly at 1.30 a.m., the bells come alive and the singing procession is heading to the ice hole under the chimes from the Trinity Cathedral. Only participants of the procession — clergymen and choristers — and a small group of journalists are allowed to enter the lake. Although the thickness of the ice this year is 35 centimetres, it is necessary to observe security measures. The ministry of emergency situations is reassuring, ''The ice strong, don't be afraid.''

The space around the ice font on the lake has turned into a fabulous city. Temples, angels, inhabitants of the Raifa forest — all these figures are made of ice, made by the inhabitants of the Raifa monastery and illuminated in different colours. The illuminated bell tower looks dominant.

The space around the ice font on the lake has turned into a fabulous city

The rite of consecration of water is headed by Metropolitan Feofan, the singing of the combined bishops' choir under the direction of Denis Rogov adds a special solemnity of the service. But the blessing of the water is completed, and the metropolitan three times dips the golden cross into the hole. The water is sanctified.

''We, in Raifa, pray for everyone''

At a usual media scrum, Metropolitan Feofan, despite tiredness, is communicating with the press. The bishop reminds about the importance for Christians of the feast of the Epiphany: ''This is a great holiday, because it is the appearance of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God-man, is baptized. From heaven, the voice of the Father God is heard: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' The Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove. I have said many times that we are not polytheists, we believe in the one God, but in three persons. Christ as God did not require baptism, but he had our human nature. And through baptism our sin is washed away, not the sin of Christ. He was personally sinless. Human nature, infected with sin after the fall in Paradise, is healed.''

According to the metropolitan, bathing in the hole on the Epiphany should be approached from the point of view of faith, it should not be a show. In Soviet times, when the temples were closed, people went to the springs and deeply believed that the divine power sanctifies the waters. Bathing on Epiphany night should be combined with faith.

The consecration of water was headed by Metropolitan Feofan

On the question of Realnoe Vremya why the metropolitan is coming to the Raifa monastery for the fourth consecutive year on the Epiphany night, Vladyka Feofan replies: ''The monastic atmosphere itself is conducive to prayer here. Here flows a quiet, peaceful night, without fuss. Here in Raifa, there are mostly those who come to pray. We pray here for everyone. We pray in a quiet and peaceful monastery atmosphere. Moreover, there is a possibility on this lake, in nature, of sanctifying the Epiphany water.''

According to Bishop Feofan, not all churches make a night of worship for the reason that not to all churches and cathedrals it is comfortable for people to come at night, not everywhere there are a few priests to serve in the morning after the night. Nevertheless, in Tatarstan on Epiphany night there worked a lot of fonts. According to the ministry of emergency situations, about 60,000 believers were going to go there. There are lifeguards and medics everywhere near the fonts.

Immediately after the press scrum, the clergy returnes to the monastery, and the first daredevils begin to plunge into the font on Raifa Lake. It is 2 a.m. on the clock.

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By Tatyana Mamaeva. Photo: Maksim Platonov

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