The Greek Orthodox and other Eastern Orthodox Christian churches marked the Feast of the Epiphany on Tuesday, the annual commemoration of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist at the Jordan River.
The Epiphany is one of the most important dates on the calendar for the Orthodox Church, as it launched Jesus’ earthly ministry, and signaled the beginning of “Christian” faith and the doctrine of “the Trinity.”
Israeli Ministry of Tourism officials estimated that 20,000 people showed up for the event. Many were Arab Christians from the land, but at least half traveled from Ethiopia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Russia and many other nations to participate in the holy convocation.
The ceremony itself was brief, with Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theofilos III saying a few brief prayers and then conducted a ritual at the water’s edge that included releasing three doves into the air.
The Feast of the Epiphany takes place at a site along the Jordan River known for centuries as Qasr al-Yahud. It is a telling name, as it literally means “the crossing of the Jews” - the place where the Jews crossed the Jordan into the Land of Israel. Just one more acknowledgement from the Muslim world that this land does indeed belong to Israel, a fact that today’s Muslims are trying to cover up and reverse in service to the “Palestinian cause.”
Epiphany 2010 was also a bit marred by the recent revelation that Theofilos is keeping his predecessor, Irineos I, prisoner in Jerusalem.
The Associated Press reported earlier this month that Irineos has been confined to his personal quarters in Jerusalem’s Old City for the past three years. AP reporters had to hide a microphone in Irineos’ daily grocery delivery in order to receive his remarks.
“They allow nobody out and nobody in to visit me,” said Irineos. “They are afraid of the people because I’m loved by the people, and I love the people.”
Irineos was deposed following accusations that he had sold some of the Greek Orthodox Churches extensive property holdings in the Holy Land to the Israeli government. Irineos later insisted he had been framed, but Theofilos had set himself up as the new patriarch by that time.
For more pictures and information from the Feast of the Epiphany 2010, make sure you receive next month’s copy of Israel Today.