Theophany “bathing” not a sport, not for forgiveness of sins says St. Petersburg Diocese

Moscow, January 17, 2017

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The St. Petersburg Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church is calling upon all faithful to sensibly approach Theophany “bathing” in fonts, pools, creeks, and ponds, neither for sport nor for forgiveness of sins.

“There is a belief that if you immerse yourself in a font, you will wash away all your sins. I hasten to disappoint you,” says Fr. Bogdan Polevoi of the Joy of All Who Sorrow podvoriye of the Holy Trinity-Zelenesk Monastery, “but this is absolutely not true. If you led an indecent life for a whole year, allowing yourself anything, and then decide that if you come and plunge on January 18 or 19, you will be clean, pure, and wonderful—this is a mistaken belief,” he stated in a press conference with Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

It is a widespread custom in Russia to plunge three times into freezing bodies of water, often in Cross-shaped holes, or in pools set up throughout the cities on the feast of the Theophany—the Lord’s Baptism, on January 18 and 19. Fr. Bogdan is urging all participants to remember and perceive the sacred meaning of the act, without which it becomes “nothing more than some kind of sport or extreme procedure.”

The Church has no official position on Theophany bathing as an ecclesiastical custom Fr. Bogdan reminds. Rather it is a good and pious folk custom which arose relatively recently.

Emergency personnel will be standing by for the more than 1.5 million expected participants throughout the country, for which more than 3,500 designated places will be set up.


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