NEW ORLEANS (January 6, 2016) – It’s a sight to see! A group of young men jumping into Bayou St. John and competing against each other to retrieve a large wooden, handmade cross cast into the cold waters. The cross retrieval has become an annual tradition at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and on Sunday, January 10, around 11:45 a.m., the young men will do it again! Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral Dean Father George Wilson will toss the cross into Bayou St. John for the Blessing of the Waters to celebrate Epiphany, also known as Theophany. The men will swim into Bayou St. John to retrieve the cross to commemorate the baptism of Jesus and the appearance of the Holy Trinity.
The cross retrieval is the third for Holy Trinity. The feast commemorates the baptism of Jesus when the Holy Trinity appeared clearly to mankind for the first time as indicated in Holy Scripture: “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17 NKJV). “Greek Orthodox Christians around the world commemorate the Theophany with this special ceremony,” says Father George. “All of the swimmers are honored for their participation, but as the one swimmer retrieves the cross and emerges from the waters, he is considered to have received extra special blessings from God.”
To honor their faith, history and culture, on Sunday, January 10, Father George will lead a procession to the banks of the bayou for the dove release and cross retrieval. Divine Liturgy begins at 10 a.m., and the procession will occur around 11:45 a.m. Following the cross retrieval, there will be brief remarks by local officials and community leaders during a celebratory luncheon in the Hellenic Center.
As part of the celebration, the community has chosen New Orleans City Council-at-Large Jason Williams will receive the Friends of the Community Award. In bestowing this honor, the Church is donating money to Williams’s charity of choice. Williams has chosen the Youth Empowerment Project, an organization that engages undeserved young people through education, mentoring and employment readiness programs. Through Holy Trinity’s gift giving, the hope and prayer is to substantially contribute to the well-being of the New Orleans metropolitan area for years to come.
About Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral is the oldest Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas. It was established in New Orleans in 1864 after businessman and Royal Consul of the Royal Government of Greece Nicholas M. Benachi offered his personal property for a temporary church. In 1867, he sold a small parcel of property on North Dorgenois Street to the community that included a small church. The community eventually relocated to the present site on Robert E. Lee Boulevard, next to Bayou St. John. The Hellenic Cultural Center was built in 1980, and the new Cathedral was completed in 1985. Today, the Cathedral serves the Greek Orthodox faithful throughout southern Louisiana, including more than 400 families from the greater New Orleans area, under the spiritual guidance of the Diocese of Atlanta (covering the southeastern United States), the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople