For the first time in 94 year, a Greek Orthodox Epiphany service took place in Izmir, or what is known to Greeks as Smyrna.
Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God about his son Jesus Christ incarnated as human. It is symbolized by the Three Wise Men who visited Jesus at his birth. Orthodox Christians celebrate the event by chasing a crucifix thrown into a body of water by a priest. The event was attended by over 200 locals and Greeks from neighboring Aegean islands.
Father Kyrilos of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Fotini in the Turkish city of Izmir conducted the blessing the first time in 94 years.
“Today, we experienced the continuation of our history with this ceremony,” said Fr. Kyrilos, reminding those diving in the water to retrieve the cross “aren’t merely diving into the water to retrieve the sacred cross, but they are stirring up the sea so that our ancestors who are in there will know what is happening today.”
Father Kyrilos is referring to the events of 1922 when Turkish forces set ablaze the Greek and Armenian quarter of Smyrna, in what became known as The Great Fire. The city was vanquished nearly entirely of its Christian population with over 100,000 killed and the remaining escaping to Greece. The tragic event marked the end of what was one of the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan cities in the Mediterranean, with Izmir today just a remnant of the jewel it was.