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Memphis Orthodox churches to hold Blessing of the Waters on Mud Island

The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church and St. John Orthodox Church will gather jointly to celebrate the service at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In keeping with the ancient customs of Orthodox people from around the world, the Orthodox parishes in Memphis will celebrate the Blessing of the Waters on Mud Island on the Mississippi River on Saturday.

The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church and St. John Orthodox Church will gather jointly to celebrate the service at 11 a.m. as part of the celebration of the Feast of Epiphany. 

The Feast commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, and this Feast signifies the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry. 

Traditionally, young people would retrieve the Holy Cross by diving for it. The person who retrieves the cross would be blessed for the entire year. While the Mediterranean Ocean or other warmer climate areas may be suitable for this, the Mississippi River is not. For this reason, the cross will have a rope tied around it in order to retrieve it. The parishes will bless the water as they sing hymns.

“One of the things that binds and unites us as a city is the River," Rev. Father Simon Thomas of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church said. "We all share it. We invite everyone from all faiths to come join us in blessing our mighty Mississippi and the City of Memphis on this special day.”

Everyone is welcome to attend the service at the boat launch on the Greenbelt.