Крещенское купание в проруби / An Icy Swim for the Baptism Feast

Epiphany icy swimming hole

Audio Content: Comments from people who are marking Epiphany (Baptism of the Lord) with a purifying wintertime dip in icy water.
Visual Content: Images from across Russia of the baptism practice, including cross-shaped holes in the ice, the blessing of the water, church processions, threefold dips in the water and people in bathing suits.

Watch the video at Первый канал.

On January 19, the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian churches in the eastern tradition mark the religious holiday Крещение Господне (Baptism of the Lord), also known as Богоявление (the Appearance of God). The holiday commemorates Jesus’s baptism as an adult in the River Jordan. The rite was performed by John the Baptist and is considered to mark the beginning of Jesus’s public life. The Gospels claim that during the baptism God spoke from heaven, proclaiming Jesus his son, and also that the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove; thus Jesus’s divine nature was revealed. This Orthodox holiday roughly corresponds to the Roman Catholic Epiphany, which similarly marks the appearance of God (“epiphany” comes from the Greek for “showing” or “appearance”), although the western holiday is primarily associated with the visit of the three wise men shortly after Jesus’s birth. Technically, Epiphany / Крещение falls on January 6th in both western and eastern Christian churches. However, since the Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, the celebration falls on January 19th in secular terms.

Water is believed to acquire extra purifying power on the feast of Крещение. Many believers mark the holiday by baptizing themselves in icy water, dipping three times successively in holes cut through the frozen surface of lakes and ponds. The hole in the ice is often cut in the shape of a large cross; the water is then blessed by members of the clergy. Warming stations with hot beverages are commonly set up to support the icy swimmers. Believers are convinced that their commemorative baptisms bring both spiritual and physical benefits: the holy and very cold water washes away sins, purifies the soul, gives the body a refreshing energetic shock and contributes to good health throughout the following year. Thus these icy baptisms illustrate the growth of Orthodox religious practice in today’s Russia as well as the longstanding popularity of folk medicine in Russian culture. One article I read reported that more than 1.8 million people marked Крещение with baptisms in 2017.

This post lets you listen in on a few of the comments believers make about their dips in the icy water. You can see several more pictures of the ritual in this article.

Заметки о языке: The hole in the ice is called a “прорубь” from the verb “прорубить”=”to chop through.” “Окунаться в проруби”=”to take a dip in a hole in the ice.” After 2:25, the priest appends the conversational suffix “-то” to a few words. This adds emphasis and in some ways is a replacement for the definite article that doesn’t exist in Russian. After 3:50, “обалденный” (from the verb “обалдеть,” to be stunned) is a fun slang word for “awesome, amazing.”

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Video Clip

young woman out for baptism dip

View the video clip at Первый канал.

 

Russian Transcript

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Пасхальный Благодатный огонь / The Easter Holy Fire

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media / holy fire in Jerusalem

Audio content: Orthodox believers discussing their experiences and feelings as they meet the Easter “Holy Fire” at a Moscow airport
Visual content: Liturgical candle lighting and lanterns

Easter in the Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t arrive until May 1 this year. (The date is calculated according to the phases of the moon, and also tends to fall later in the year because the Orthodox Church operates on the Julian calendar.) That means that Orthodox believers are still in the middle of the Великий пост (Great Fast or Lent), the 40-day period that involves the denial of certain worldly pleasures in preparation for the joyous celebration of the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.

One event that Orthodox believers can look forward to is the yearly arrival of the “Благодатный огонь.” This phrase can be translated as “Holy Fire” but actually indicates something along the lines of “the fire that provides abundant blessings.” This fire appears on the evening of Holy Saturday, the night before Easter, at the храм Гроба Господня (Church of the Lord’s Tomb) in Jerusalem. This church is located at the site where Jesus is thought to have been buried after his crucifixion and where he subsequently rose from the dead. Many believers assert that the fire arises miraculously each year, although there has long been disagreement on this point even among members of the Church. In any case, the fire is distributed from the inner sanctum out to the worshipers in the church; it is also transported on special airline flights from Jerusalem to multiple centers of Orthodox belief around the world.

In the below videos we see

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