Theophany 2013 in Johannesburg
We had a good Theophany/Epiphany at St Nicholas in Brixton this year. Since it was on Sunday more people could be there (though many were still away on holiday) — in most years it’s a working day and we start at 5:45 am and by 7:00 people are beginning to be impatient to get away to work.
The problem is, that when it falls on a Sunday, things are different, and every liturgical text we looked at said something different too. Some said the blessing of the waters took place at Vespers, before the litanies, or after the litanies or somewhere else. In the end we decided to have it on Sunday after the Liturgy.
Vespers was very good. Fifteen Bible readings, 13 from the Old Testament, all about water.
In the morning we had Matins and the Liturgy of St Basil, and the Blessing of the Waters at the end, after the Prayer before the Ambo.
Since it was a sunny Sunday we had it outside, in the sweltering summer heat. In some places, where there is a river available, they have it there, but Johannesburg is one of the very few major cities in the world not built on a river. The watershed between the Vaal and the Limpopo runs right along Brixton ridge, very close to the church, which is about 100 metres south of the watershed. Rain that falls on one side goes to the Atlantic Ocean, and rain that falls on the other side goes to the Indian Ocean. But I digress. By the time that rain becomes a river it is far from St Nicholas, so we use the font.
It was a bit chaotic. I had one translation of the text, Fr Athanasius another, and the choir a third (downloaded from the Internet). One of the things that plagues English-speaking Orthodox Christians is that there are about 50 different English translations of liturgical texts, most of them bad.
Another problem was that about two thirds of the choir (as well as half the members of the congregation) were away on holiday still. But we had a good time, and we managed to sing our way through the service, nearly four hours of it (one of the altar servers fainted), and some even thought it was fun. At the end we had another service — prayers for school children for the new school year, as the holidays end this week.