The Russian Orthodox Church's Patriarch Alexis II is due to deliver the Divine Liturgy and administer the rite of Great Sanctification of Water in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior Saturday morning, on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, which in the Eastern Church is also celebrated as the baptism of Christ.
The Eve of the Epiphany and the day of the feast itself are a traditional occasion where water is sanctified in Orthodox churches. Orthodox Christians believe Epiphany water brings both corporeal and spiritual health. Historically, Epiphany used to be an occasion for braving the bitter cold and taking a dip in an ice-hole in the hope of healing various ailments.
This time as every year, believers will queue up in front of churches to stock up with Epiphany water for the whole year ahead. The water is drunk on an empty stomach in the morning, as well as being used to sanctify homes and other premises and invoke God's blessing to help people.
The Eve of the Epiphany is the end of Orthodox Christmas week - the time after Orthodox Christmas when believers do not fast on Wednesday and Fridays. The Eve of the Epiphany, however, is a day of rigorous fasting.
Saturday night the Patriarch is to deliver a special overnight service, before administering matins in the early hours of Sunday, both at the Cathedral of Epiphany.
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