The Blessing of the Waters

What could possibly persuade 70 of us to gather up on Monarch Pass the cold morning of January 9th? It was a morning most would think enjoyable by the fireside, sipping hot tea. While considered one of our most scenic mountain tops it was rather uncomfortable that windy, snowy 10 degree morning and yet we chose to draw together to witness the blessing of the waters ceremony preformed by clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

 Those gathered found the beautiful ceremony to be deeply moving, a spiritual and mystical tradition, and an honor to behold. The ritual is preformed in winter, in the mountains where it could very well be cold, windy, snowy, and uncomfortable, such is LIFE!

 Incense permeated the frozen air. Bells rang. An alter carved out of snow held candles and framed religious images. One picture had the word ‘Theophany’ at the top. Theophany is the manifestation of God to man; a sign by which the presence of God is revealed. The blessing of the waters is associated with the Feast of Epiphany or Theophany which traditionally falls on the 6th of January. While the blessing is mainly associated with the commemoration of the Magi honoring the baby Jesus, the feast is also a remembrance of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist; all very fitting with the water motif, though the water on Monarch Pass was in the form of snow.

 Because Monarch Pass is located on the Continental Divide which separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean and the river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean, and it is also in the northernmost reaches of the Divide those river systems that drain into the Artic Ocean are found, it is the perfect location for the blessing of the waters. All of the waters around us were blessed.

 The priests performing the blessing came in from Denver, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Calhan and Delta. Father Anthony, from Colorado Springs, led the service and so as to bless all the waters he tossed the cross into the snow to the right of the alter and to the left of the alter and in the center, above the alter. The children were gathered at each point to retrieve the cross.

 At the end of the 45 minute service the entire congregation was welcomed by Father Anthony to come forward and kiss the cross, receiving a blessing as he sprinkled snow on each of us.

 For me the adventure of life sometimes calls for being physically uncomfortable. It was cold the November we gathered at Notre Dame to watch a football game. It was cold on Haleakala as we gathered to watch the sunrise in Hawaii’s national park. It was cold on Monarch Pass as we gathered to watch the blessing of the waters. Life is often most amazing when we venture out of our comfort zone.

Return to Articles