Mother Irina (Gelman), who took part in the decoration of the font in the courtyard of the convent, reflects on the Feast of Epiphany of the Lord and the tradition of plunging into the baptismal ice font.
“Dipping into the ice-cold water of the baptismal font is an ancient pious tradition. Christ entered the river Jordan at His Baptism, and today dipping in the baptismal ice “yordan”signifies to us that we are following Christ.
“The font has been decorated in an austere style. We were trying to fill a person with a particular spirit for this great feast. At our feast of Epiphany people could see carved out of ice figures: the temple, figures of angels and animals symbolizing the evangelists. Everything here puts you in a prayerful mood.
“It goes without saying that the Church sacraments are not replaced by plunging into water. However, every effort that we make for God matters to Him. As we plunge, we temper our souls and learn to sacrifice ourselves, our time or something else for the Lord. Taking a dip in an ice-hole is not the same as swimming in a lake in the summer. In the winter, it is much nicer to sit next to a fire at home or sleep in a warm bed, but many come to the night vigil in the church; then go to the courtyard where a Moleben (prayer service) is served in the open air, and after that the believers plunge into the cold water of the yordan. And for this daring, the Lord gives so much to people! Even if at first someone just searches for striking experience and miracles, later, if a person is guided correctly in his spiritual life, he will come to God. From the emotional to the spiritual.
“Baptism is the Epiphany, the appearance of the Holy Trinity. And we must prepare for this miracle as we prepare for the Nativity of Christ and the Resurrection of the Lord. We must remember that all our interaction with God is labour and as a reward for this labour the Lord gives us spiritual joy, but if we don't make an effort, we won't receive that joy.
“Plunging into the yordan should not remain without a trace, it should teach us something. After all, everything that happens in our earthly life is a preparation for the life eternal into which we shall once have to "plunge".”
 A specially cut large opening in the ice of a frozen lake or river. – Translator.
Translated from Russian by Irina Burnip
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