TARPON SPRINGS, FL – The Feast of the Epiphany/Theophany was celebrated worldwide on January 6. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America presided over the 116th Epiphany celebrations and the Blessing of the Waters in Spring Bay at Tarpon Springs where Alexander Makris, 16, dove and retrieved the cross.
His grandmother Angeliki Makris, who happens to also be the godmother of last year’s winner, had a premonition and prayed that her grandson would be the lucky cross diver this year. She told The National Herald, “We must pray with our hearts for what we ask for to come true. I, too, said my prayers and believed that everything would go well. I wish health and blessings to the whole world.”
At the entrance of the historic Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Tarpon Springs, stood Miltiadis Makris, the excited grandfather of the winner. “I feel very proud and happy for my grandson,” he said. “It is the first time that someone from our family swam to catch the Cross of the Epiphany. Alexander had not told us anything in the previous days, but I had a premonition that he would be the winner this year. I did not say anything to anyone, but I still had the feeling. I wanted my grandson to catch the Cross, because it is a great blessing from God.”
This year’s winner is from New Port Richey, just north of the “Greek Village” of Tarpon Springs, and is a high school student at River Ridge. “I swam down and as soon as I saw the Cross shining, I grabbed it,” he said inside the church, where he had been carried from the bay on the shoulders of the other swimmers. “It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true.”
His father, Nicholas Makris, also said he was proud of his son. According to him, his son had not told his parents that he had any premonition that he would catch the Cross. He simply would make an effort.
With smiles of enthusiasm in Spring Bayou, then on the steps of St. Nicholas Cathedral and then inside the sanctuary, Alexander Makris stood with his father, Nicholas, his mother, Andrea, and his sister, Sophia. The latter said that in the previous days she had given some technical advice to her brother.
As soon as her brother emerged from the water, kissed and congratulated him, surrounded by the other young people.
On Thursday morning, at the St. Nicholas Cathedral, Archbishop Elpidophoros spoke about the celebration of the Epiphany.
Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos welcomed the Archbishop and other bishops to the city, as well as visitors from Greece and other parts of the U.S.
He presented the key of the city of Tarpon Springs to Archbishop Elpidophoros, according to the established tradition. “I give it to you to remind you that we love you, we respect you and we want you to be here regularly in Tarpon Spring,” Mayor Alahouzos said and concluded with “Axios.”
Archbishop Elpidophoros thanked the mayor “for this great honor” and affirmed his love for the city of Tarpon Springs, where Greek culture, Orthodoxy and religious faith are kept. “You are commendable, because even in the difficult days of the pandemic, you did not stop this beautiful tradition and you make us proud both as Greeks and as Orthodox Christians. Axios of you, too. Congratulations. Thank you very much.”
Addressing Chania Mayor Panagiotis Simandirakis, the Archbishop said: “Welcome. It is not as nice here as Chania, but it is, I think, a little closer to Chania. Greece is everywhere. Where there are Greeks, Greece is everywhere.”
Prior to the Blessing of the Waters at Spring Bay, Archbishop Elpidophoros referred to the Holy Cross, its symbolism, its blessing, and its message.
Also present were Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, Bishop Sevastianos of Zelon, Fr. James Rousakis, among many other members of the clergy, U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Consul General of Greece in Tampa Loukas Tsokos, AHEPA Past Supreme President George Horiatis and current Supreme Secretary Savas Tsivikos.
For this year’s celebration of the Epiphany in Tarpon Springs, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta told TNH that the celebration of the Lights has returned to better days, compared to the previous two years, due to the pandemic. “This year was really an ecclesiastical feast,” he said. “It brought each of us closer to celebrate spiritually. I could say that I felt that this year.”
TheTampa Bay Times also featured a social media post from TNH about the Blessing of the Waters.