Just as the weather begins to get wintery in our area, I start to see signs advertising the chills and thrills of a Polar Bear Club Dive into the frosty waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It always surprises me that even without the framework of Orthodoxy to follow, somehow the Liturgical Calendar is engrained into the mainstream human soul.
Orthodox Christians have been part of the original Polar Bear Club for
thousands of years, plunging into the depths of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds,
and oceans after the waters are blessed every Theophany. Our Facebook
accounts and Instagram feeds are full of amazing photographs of bishops clothed
in glorious vestments, icicles dripping from their eyebrows and beards,
standing on the edge of a cross cut into the ice as the faithful slip beneath the
frigid waters, a stinging remembrance of their baptism and life after death.
My husband has been the priest for our parish (a mission church of the Orthodox
Church in America) for nearly nine years. We minister to the locals of
our area year-round and are revitalized each summer as the vacationers swarm
into our seaside town and swell the numbers in attendance for Divine
Services. In the burning heat of the summer, as I watch our three little
children playing in the sand and splashing in the salty water of the Atlantic
Ocean, I am reminded of the achingly cold day in January when our parish joined
the faithful of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese sister parish, Saint George. Metropolitan
Evangelos of New Jersey blessed the choppy sea waters that we rely on for so
much, flinging Holy Water in a sparkling shower over the beach in the
shape of a cross, releasing doves into the brilliantly blue sky, pouring the sanctified water into the ocean, and finally
tossing a cross into the waters to be retrieved by brave teenagers shivery with
Begun by Saint George's numerous years ago, the annual Blessing
of the Atlantic has already become a tradition that the faithful of this area
look forward to every January. My
husband and I wonder whether someday our little ones might grow up into teens who
are eager to join their friends in the plunge to bring the cross back to the
shore. For now, though, I am content to keep
swimming to the dog-days of summer, reminding our trio of children to make the
sign of the Cross over themselves before they dash off to jump and play in the
blessed waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
My husband normally serves with the clergy during the Blessing of the Atlantic, but this time he recorded it with his drone and GoPro cameras. You may see the video below. Enjoy!