Opinions of priests
Recently, it has become a tradition for many on the night of January 19, on the eve of the Orthodox holiday of the Epiphany, to plunge into a hole. Does a Christian need to do this without fail, and can there be any spiritual benefit from this, say the priests Dionysius Kamenshchikov, Valery Dukhanin, Philip Ponomarev and Vladimir Gamaris.
“Dipping into the ice-hole is a Russian pious tradition that has no sacramental value”
– To plunge into the ice-hole on the feast of the Baptism of the Epiphany is a Russian pious tradition that has no sacramental value, and the Church does not oblige anyone to strictly observe it. Actually, quite a lot has already been written about this. It all depends on the desire of the person. But for many believers, this tradition is very important.
For example, in Moscow, where I was born and raised, the tradition to consecrate a font carved in ice resumed en masse in the nineties. At the Optina Desert Compound in Ostankino, which is now the Compound of the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, on the Feast of Baptism night service was certainly served, according to the regulations is very long, and in the morning when the dawn was barely able to dawn, around Ostankino pond a procession followed, The abbot consecrated a font specially cut in the ice. And then old men, women, children, of course, and adult men – everyone who wanted, plunged into the consecrated hole. It was, however, taken before the bath to go to the priest and take on this blessing.
In this sense, the question that it is necessary to go under the shower on the night of Baptism looks rather strange. After all, if the tradition of “going to Jordan” goes back to the Holy Gospel history, when the Savior received John’s baptism in the waters of the Jordan, then what significance can a soul have to have on a baptist night? Rather, it looks like some kind of superstition or delusion.
Indeed, a lot of people at Baptism, without going to the temple of God and not thinking about the deepest sense of the feast – the Epiphany of the Lord, tend to plunge three times into the hole, simply because they want to feel some extreme situation in life, or, perhaps, to raise the spiritual mood, or simply "for the company." In their life, of course, this will not change anything: “God will give, we will bathe for the next year,” and that’s all. But I know at least one case where a person who came "for swimming" with a noisy company, then went to a nearby temple, where someone explained to him clearly and neatly the meaning of why he had just plunged into icy water. The young man began to go to the temple, to worship, then to confess and to communion. Here, probably, much depends on us – people who have to explain to others the meaning and significance of this or that church action, traditions, and do it correctly and in an accessible language.
I believe that the main benefit through the symbolic immersion in the “Jordan” after the divine service for a Christian can be a greater introduction to the reality of the feast of Baptism – the Epiphany of the Lord. Recently, we celebrated Christmas, glorified, together with angels and shepherds, the Incarnation in the world of "ours for the salvation" of Jesus Christ. On the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, the Holy Church reminds us of the great mystery of the Trinity of God, revealed to the whole world more than 2,000 years ago in the waters of the Jordan River. This is the reality by which the Church lives, and which every Christian is called to enter.
"Bathing in the hole has nothing to do with spiritual life"
– In my opinion, swimming in the hole has nothing to do with spiritual life. This is one of the traditions, which, unfortunately, has grown into superstition. It is necessary to approach with reasoning to similar procedures, to protect your health and not risk them. People who do not go to the temple, do not confess and do not take communion, in my opinion, there will be no spiritual benefit from bathing in the hole. Many of those who traditionally sink into the hole at the Baptism of the Lord, then say that after leaving the cold water, they experienced relief and euphoria: “As if born again, left all their sins in the hole.” This condition has a medical explanation. Immersion in ice water is a great stress for the body. And under stress, the hormone adrenaline is released into the blood, under the influence of which such sensations arise. This state has nothing to do with spirituality.
People believe that by coming to the hole in the baptism once a year, they are leading a Christian life. This is a deep misconception. It is not necessary to lull your Christian conscience with this. It is also believed that if a person plunges into an ice-hole three times, the Lord will immediately forgive all his sins. This is also not true, because sins are released to a person in the Sacrament of Confession, and then with a deep, contrite and repentant feeling, when a person struggled to repent before God and began to fight against sin. It was then that the Lord, seeing these works, and absolves a man of sins – again in the Sacrament of Confession, and not in the hole. There is no such thing that a person sins the whole year, then comes to an ice-hole, is dipped in it three times and is freed from sin. People do not understand that how they lived in sin, so they will live unless they turn to true and deep repentance and do not embark on confession.
“You can’t not only bathe in the baptismal water, but you cannot even baptize children
– On the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and on the eve – on Epiphany Eve – a great blessing of water is performed in memory of the Epiphany on the Jordan River. This is the holy water of a great agiasma, a great shrine. In the last decade, bathing in holy water began to spread everywhere. Unfortunately, often people without a prayer, and in a drunken state, and even with obscene cries are immersed in icy water. Not remembering the Lord Jesus Christ, the great church feast was turned into entertainment and a pretext for sin. Many people do not know that not only can one not bathe in the water of the Epiphany, but one cannot even baptize children. The baptismal water, as a great shrine, should be distributed for the consecration of houses, for reverent sprinkling. You can drink it with prayer and reverence. Usually they drink it on an empty stomach, but in special cases you can drink holy water and eat it: under extraordinary circumstances, under terrible temptations, and also according to tradition on the very day of the holiday.
Here is what we read in the priest’s handbook, published at the end of the 20th century:
“The consecration of water for baptism is one of the most important parts of the rite, which has the deepest connection with the sacrament itself. The importance of these prayers is indicated by the fact that even in the abbreviated epiphany of “fear for the sake of mortality”, where the rank of prohibition of evil spirits and the Symbol of Faith is lowered, the prayer for the blessing of water is preserved.
It is water that reveals the meaning of baptism to us. In the prayers and actions of the consecration of the water for baptism, all sides of the sacrament are revealed, its relationship with the world and matter, with life in all its manifestations is shown. Water is the oldest religious symbol. From a Christian point of view, three main aspects of this symbolism are important. First, water is the primary cosmic element. At the beginning of creation. " The Spirit of God was hovering over the water ”(Gen. 1: 2). At the same time, it is a symbol of destruction and death. The basis of life, the life-giving force and the basis of death, the destructive force: such is the dual image of water in Christian theology. Finally, water is a symbol of purification, rebirth and renewal. This symbolism permeates the whole of Holy Scripture, enters the narration of creation, fall and salvation. We meet water at the very beginning of the book of Genesis, where it marks the creation itself, the Cosmos. When “the Lord saw that the wickedness of men was great on earth, and that all the thoughts and thoughts of their heart were evil at all times. ”(Gen. 6: 5), He brought His righteous wrath on men and washed their sins in the waters of the Flood. The Lord commanded Moses to install the laver in the tabernacle and fill it with water to wash the hands and feet of the high priest before making sacrifices to God. As a sign of the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New, St. John the Forerunner called on the people to repent and be cleansed of sins in the waters of the Jordan. And the Lord Jesus Christ Himself sanctified the water element, having received the baptism from John.
The use of water at Baptism of the Epiphany, as well as of holy water in general, is allowed only in cases when even unsanctified water is allowed to be consumed, that is, at the Baptism of infants by laymen, the fear of death. ”
That is, even for the Baptism of infants, the water of the great agiasm cannot be used except in the most extreme cases, when it is impossible to consecrate ordinary water for the Sacrament of Baptism. A baby cannot be baptized in it, and drunk uncles can swim in it ?!
By your faith you will be. But it is impossible to tempt, tempt the Lord your God. You cannot risk the health of children and your own health in the hope that God will save us if we act insanely. How many people got heart attacks from abrupt immersion in ice water, how many children got pneumonia due to hypothermia! The enemy of the human race, the devil, tries to remove the inner spiritual saving essence from all that is good, ecclesiastical, saintly, replacing it with an external, empty, unconnected with the Lord Jesus Christ and the eternal salvation of the soul. It seems that Easter would be celebrated by going to the cemetery and drinking vodka there, but in fact they only sinned and did not even remember about the Risen Christ. It seems that Baptism was celebrated, with geeks and screams, having plunged into the icy water, but in fact they did not remember the cleansing of the soul from sin and without any reverence treated the holy water of the great shrine. It seems that the new year was joyfully greeted – but they did not remember that the New Year from the Nativity of Christ, that it’s necessary to rejoice in not changing the numbers in the calendar of our gadget, and the Incarnation of the Son of God, us for the sake of man and ours for the sake of salvation from heaven.
“If a person plunges into the baptismal ice-hole, let it be a symbol of renewal for him”
– In our Russian tradition in general, immersion in holy sources is very common, and at any time of the year. And spring water is always cold, the temperature is about 4 degrees all year round. This is a kind of folk asceticism, when a Russian Orthodox person, visiting a holy place, certainly plunges into the source – he tries to get in touch with the shrine as closely as possible. On the day of the Epiphany, we remember the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and someone also plunges into the newly consecrated hole in order to fully dip in the image of the Savior.
Of course, bathing in the hole is not an indispensable accessory for the feast of Epiphany. The church charter does not specifically prescribe this. It is an established pious custom, so do not blame those who are not accustomed to winter swimming and are afraid to dive into the icy water. After all, the main purpose of holy water is to drink it little by little, to sprinkle our habitation, holy water should contribute to our spiritual life. Having brought holy water from the temple, it is necessary to sprinkle all the rooms with it, and then, in the morning, drink the prayer on an empty stomach and take it as God’s blessing. This is important, and not taking a shower on the day of Baptism or an indispensable immersion in the ice hole.
We must take into account the peculiarities of the health of different people. After all, Christ did not receive Baptism in the winter Russian ice-hole, but in the warmer Jordan. How to be? If a Christian with poor health, for example, with a bad heart, for whom diving into an ice hole is not a very useful stress, plunges into the hole, then my personal attitude will probably be twofold. Or, as they say, “according to your faith, be it unto you,” and for the faith of the immersed, the Lord will save him from undesirable manifestations of the disease, and maybe even heal. Or, if you do not have strong faith, then, as they say, “do not tempt the Lord your God”, do not take upon yourself any feats that do not correspond to your strengths.
There are people who rarely go to the temple, do not confess and do not take communion, but they necessarily immerse themselves in the hole in baptism. Sometimes they say that immersion washes away all sins from a person. It must be remembered that all sins are washed away from a person only in two cases – in the sacrament of Baptism, when a person enters the Church and is baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and in the sacrament of Confession, which, by the way, is called the second baptism. However, it is good that unchurched people honor the church holiday at least in this way. Perhaps this serves as a preliminary step towards serious church life, and so far they are limited to such a tangible external form of communion with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord through immersion into a hole.
If a person plunges into the hole on the day of Baptism, then let it be a symbol of renewal for him, to then try to lead life as Christ commanded, so that the adopted immersion would become a new incentive to follow the Savior on all the paths of his life. And as you are not afraid to dive into the ice hole, just do not be afraid to change your life from sin to virtue, do not be afraid to come to the temple, confess your secret sins, refrain from what defiles our soul – and then you will receive from Lord Jesus Christ genuine renewal and joy of life.