On Sunday, 7 January, the annual Blessing of the Waters and the throwing of the Holy Cross took place with due splendour at the seaside Carss Bush Park in Sydney, with the participation of all the Greek Orthodox Parishes and Communities of the New South Wales capital city.
The ceremony was presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia, who blessed the waters of the Pacific Ocean, in the presence of thousands of Greeks and a multitude of representatives from Greek Associations and Organisations, and the Australian political leadership.
Dozens of faithful dived into the sea to retrieve the Holy Cross and receive the blessing of their Shepherd and Archbishop. The Holy Cross was retrieved by the young Michael Solidakis, from the Parish-Community of the Resurrection of Christ in Kogarah.
After the completion of the ceremony, the Epiphany Greek Festival followed, which was organised by the Holy Archdiocese of Australia and included a rich traditional music and dance program, as well as a wide array of traditional Greek food and sweets. During his opening address, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia welcomed everyone to an event which, as he emphasised, is a “mirror”, which reflects the rich cultural heritage, the Orthodox faith and the unbreakable bonds of unity of the Greek Community.
Referring to the Great Feast Day of the Epiphany and the Blessing of the Waters that preceded it, His Eminence noted, among other things: “With his manifestation, Christ blessed not only the waters, but also all of humankind. All of creation. The whole universe. Therefore, as a continuation of the meaningful service of the blessing of the waters, this Festival is not only a celebration of our Greek identity, but also a proof of the enduring power of our Orthodox faith, which is the “key” to our endurance and motivation for our dedication to maintaining the ancestral values that have sustained us for generations and generations. Quite simply, it is the cornerstone upon which we have built our lives.”
In addition, the Archbishop made a special mention of the substantial integration of the Greek Community into the wider Australian society, pointing out that Greek culture, the Orthodox faith and Greek Orthodox traditions are an integral part of the multicultural mosaic of Australian culture.
Finally, he emphasised that the celebration of the Holy Epiphany, with the widespread and moving participation of faithful Greeks, is not a occasional gathering of persons, but rather it confirms the enduring spirit of unity that distinguishes Orthodoxy and Hellenism in the Australian heartland. “It is a reminder that we are not defined by challenges, but by our ability to overcome them,” he pointed out characteristically.
Concluding his address, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia did not fail to thank the organisers of the event, for their many months of hard work, as well as the sponsors, benefactors and donors, for their decisive contribution to the success of the Epiphany Greek Festival. He also thanked all those present for their participation, including: Their Graces, Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis, Bishop Christodoulos of Magnesia, the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Mr. Yannis Mallikourtis, the Minister for Multiculturalism of the New South Wales State Government, The Hon. Mr. Steve Kamper MP, the Greek Australian State Minister for Labor Relations and Occupational Health & Safety, The Hon. Ms. Sophie Cotsis, The NSW Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and South Coast & Illawarra, The Hon. Natalie Ward, MLC, the Mayor of Georges River Council, Cr. Sam Elmir and the President of the Greek Festival of Sydney Ms. Nia Karteris.