Priests and bishops roll up their sleeves and walk into rivers in their vestments. Hundreds of people of all ages–babies, youth, adults and the elderly–follow them into the water
by Michael Tare
In recent years, mass baptisms have returned to Russia, necessitated by the mass return to Christianity of the nation after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Priests and bishops roll up their sleeves and walk into rivers in their vestments. Hundreds of people of all ages–babies, youth, adults and the elderly–follow them into the water, and the priest submerges each one into the water three times. The submerging into the water and reemerging into the sunlight symbolizes the death and resurrection of Christ.
At a time when many Christian churches are steadily losing their faithful to atheism or indifference, the sight is truly astounding.
Increasingly–and very symbolically–the day reserved form many mass baptisms has increasingly become July 28th, the day when Russians celebrate the anniversary of the baptism of Rus into Orthodox Christianity.
The national conversion occurred in 988, when Prince Vladimir, the Ruler of Russia, decreed that all those, who ‘his friends’ to be baptized into the Christian Faith. The significance and repercussions of this moment in the formation of Russia cannot be overstated.
The growing tradition of mass baptisms in the rivers for the Feast of the Baptism of Rus, according to priest Alexander Volkov, spokesman for the head of the Russian Church, is a “positive idea.”
He also stressed that Patriarch Kyril has been very insistent upon establishing structures that would help prepare people for baptism, in order to avoid shallow and thoughtless conversions.
To become a member of the Church, you need to attend several learning sessions that include talking to a priest and studying the Holy Scripture.
“Preparing people for entering the Church is very important. In that sense, we will probably witness this new practice of massive baptism in the time period close to the Day of Baptism of Rus, July 28th, grow and increase in many dioceses of our Church. I think that, in principle, this a step in the right direction” Volkov said.
Mass baptisms did indeed take place in different regions of the country in the end of July. A large one, for example, was held in the far east of Russia and in Ekaterinburg (footage below from Ekaterinburg).
This ceremony is also very popular in the southern regions of Russia.