Subzero wind chills nipped at Father Ciprian Streza’s skin as he tossed a wooden cross over the frozen railing at Clinch Marina.
The light wood splashed down in the frigid water below as members of Archangel Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church huddled against the cold. The words the young priest then recited cemented the group with a long-held church tradition that has become commonplace along the shores of Grand Traverse Bay and many other waterways worldwide.
“That this water may be for the cleansing of souls and bodies by those, who with faith draw and drink from it, let us pray to the Lord,” Streza recited.
Orthodox faithful recognized Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by tossing a cross into water during the annual Holy Epiphany service in early January. The tradition of tossing the wooden cross into a body of water unites members of the church far and wide to remember Jesus’ baptism.
The Blessing of the Waters serves to connect people to Christ, to the water and to Christians around the world.
“Water unites, geographically and time wise,” Streza said. The same water that baptized Jesus flows into Grand Traverse Bay and all the water in our area, he said.
After drawing the cross back to shore, Streza blessed the members of his congregation with holy water. They lingered in the cold for an hour to complete the service, but each person waited patiently for their turn. For a chance to be closer to God and to the land.
“We believe God has made us not only to care for our neighbors, but also to care for this beautiful world which was entrusted to us,” Streza said.
The Record-Eagle series “This land” documents the work and traditions of residents in the Grand Traverse region whose lives are inextricably intertwined with the land, wildlife and water abundant in the Mitten state’s northern reaches.
The regular installments will span northern Michigan’s sprawling landscape of dunes, water, hills, vineyards and orchards, telling stories of people from all walks of life who dedicate their time to working and worshiping our natural places.
Gospeltidings Online Researcher