The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

January 20, 2012

Blessing of Water outdoors 1st time


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SHENANGO VALLEY — Area Orthodox churches will gather on the banks of the Shenango River in downtown Sharon to perform the Blessing of Water at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The public is invited to the service, which will take place at the overlook off North Water Avenue and last about 20 minutes. Parking is available.

The Orthodox Clergy Association of the Shenango Valley is conducting the service. The group includes priests of six churches in Hermitage, Sharon, Farrell and Mercer.

While there has been an Orthodox presence in Mercer County for more than 100 years, the service will mark the first time that the Blessing of Water will be celebrated outdoors at the Shenango River.

“We priests felt it was important to bring this ancient tradition to life in our region,” the Rev. David Mastroberte of St. John’s Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Sharon, said. “It will not only be enriching for our own church communities, but is one way in which we ask God to bless all who reside in this area.”

Epiphany on Jan. 6 is known to western Christians as the commemoration of the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, however, the focus of Epiphany is the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. Because of this connection between Epiphany and water, Orthodox communities mark the day by holding a special Blessing of Water service. Near the end of the service, a cross is immersed into water to represent the baptism of Christ. Traditionally, this service is performed indoors in church and outdoors at a body of water.

While all Orthodox churches have retained the indoor service, the outdoor observance fell out of use in many American communities. In recent years, Orthodox Christians in many locales have revived this age-old tradition, holding the service on Epiphany or another day in January.

Info: Rev. Milovan Katanic, president, at 724-342-1198 or frmilovan@stgeorgehermitage.org