The feast of Theophany is the culmination of the church festal period known as “The Holy Days,” in the Russian Orthodox Church, which commences with the feast of the Lord’s Nativity. During this period, there are no full prostrations in church and no fasting from animal products.
In the monastery, we also celebrate with solemnity the feast of St. Basil, when we also commemorate the civil New Year with a special moleben and the feast of St. Seraphim.
The feast of the Theophany of the Lord is very much a twin of the Nativity. The services are almost identical in form. Like a twin, originally the feasts were one feast, the feast of the Theophany, and only later did the Feast of the Nativity become a distinct feast, in part, to contra act the pagan feast of Saturnalia, or the winter solstice feast.
The forefeast begins the day after St. Basil, and on January 5/18 we have the Eve of Theophany. In the morning, we had the Royal Hours, followed by the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil. This itself was followed by the Great Blessing of Water. It is called the Great Blessing of Water, to distinguish it form the Lesser Blessing which takes place at other times of the year, the Greater Blessing only being performed on Theophany.
Since the construction in 1988 of our belltower and the baptistry, it has been our custom to have a procession of the Cross to the baptistry after the prayer on the amvon. All the bells are rung with the blessing of the water by the bishop with a cross. We then returned to church with the bishop blessing the church with the holy water. The liturgy was then finished with Many Years being chanted. The faithful upon approaching to kiss the Cross were blessed with the Holy Water. At this time other priests began to bless the lower church and all the rooms of the monastery/seminary complex. One this was done, the brethren sat down to partake of the one, Lenten meal of the day.
In the evening, the Vigil was served of the feast itself, and the following day, His Grace, Bishop Luke presided at the Divine Liturgy, again followed by another Great Blessing of Water. On the Eve the large adult baptistry basin is filled with water which is blessed, and on the feast itself, the infant font and two other large pots, filled with water are blessed. The faithful as well as the brethren help themselves to the Holy Water for their personal use for the following year. At this time, the clergy of the monastery begin to bless the homes of our neighbors