Major media sources of the world had screaming headlines yesterday – “117 Russian people were hospitalized for drinking holy water in Siberia”!!! In addition to describing the sad event, Associated Press ends its news release with the most ridiculous announcement of “all tap water in most of Russia as being undrinkable”!
What a seemingly horrible and destructive news for anyone familiar with the wonderful ritual of Grand blessing of the waters (regardless of a water source). In this particular event, the truth has yet to be discovered and another side of the coin should be shown…
At the eve of Epiphany, the faithful flocked to the Church of Archangel Michael in Irkutsk to take holy water to their homes and take a dip in the waters of a nearby lake after it was blessed by the church’s priests. Russian inner water reservoirs are frozen in January, so ice is cut in the form of a cross for people to enter for a dip or take water. Ice dips are rather part of folk tradition than something initiated by the Russian Orthodox Church. A few days later, about 100 worshippers, adults and children among them, were hospitalized with intestinal infection. Most Russian media claims that, after having been tested, water was found to be undrinkable.
If one could read Russian media online, for example, a news channel Gzt.ru, the focus would immediately shift from anti-religious and anti-Orthodox (“those popes poisoned our children while themselves drinking bottled water called “Holy Water Source” is an actual remark left by some Russian reader at gzt.ru forum) to socio-political aspect of poisoning.
The local church authorities claim that the poisoning might have been a provocation against wide popularity of the church’s senior priest and his active preaching against sects and heresy. It is well-known yet gruesome fact that the priests (and not only in Russia) are sometimes even killed by extremists for their effective preaching…
Once again, our faith is being tested and everyone might find himself at odds with common sense. However, what if this sad event is just another attempt of the evil forces to destroy our belief in miracles?
A local note:
On the Eve of Epiphany (January 5th per Gregorian calendar), churches in Columbus perform the holy ritual of Grand water blessing and offer holy water to be taken home. Some local Orthodox faithful invite priests to bless their homes every year around Epiphany. What a great way to defend oneself and the loved ones from the attacks of the evil!