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'A source of life' | Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church gathers to bless Mississippi River

"For centuries and centuries water was life, and so blessing that water was necessary — it wasn't just for the drinking," parish priest Simon Thomas said.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A 2,000-year-old tradition continued at the Boat Landing and Greenbelt Park on Saturday, Jan. 7. The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church gathered for the traditional blessing of the water as all Memphians rely upon it in some way.

Traditionally, Orthodox churches celebrate the "Feast of Epiphany Theophany" on Jan. 6 each year. This commemorates Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, according to Simon Thomas, parish priest at Annunciation.

"It has been a tradition for 2,000 years that we bless the largest body of water," Thomas said. "Here in Memphis that's the Mississippi river, so we bless the river because water is a source of life and so we want that blessing of that life in our city and in our community."

Thomas said he believes water is often taken for granted.

"For centuries and centuries water was life, and so blessing that water was necessary — it wasn't just for the drinking," he said. "It was also for the crops and for other things, so having the blessing of that water is important ... Maybe we learned a little bit this past year when the Mississippi was so low — at historic lows — that there can be scarcity there, so we want the blessing from God on that water."

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