Cross winner’s eyes lit up

January 08, 2018

Lucky man: Matthew Zurcas retrieves the cross thrown into the water during the Blessing of the Water ceremony on Saturday.

Friendly competition: Vasilis Risto, 14, and friend Niko Kopelias, 9, look forward to getting another chance at the Blessing of the Waters next year.

Community members receive a blessing from Father Platon Derlis.

Holy: Father Platon Derlis about to start the ceremony.

Ready to jump: Father Platon Derlis about to throw the cross into the water.

Matthew Zurcas rose triumphantly from the water with the cross at the Greek Orthodox Church community’s annual Blessing of the Water ceremony on Saturday.

Mr Zurcas was one of about 15 young men competing to retrieve the cross tossed into the water at Aquamoves by Father Platon Derlis while hundreds from the church community watched on.

According to tradition, he who retrieves the cross at the Holy Epiphany celebrated on January 6 can expect a year of good fortune.

The ceremony marks the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan and is done by Greek Orthodox communities across the world every year on the same day.

Mr Zurcas said it felt great to return with the cross for the first time.

‘‘I’m 25 now and have been taking part in the ceremony since I was 12 years old and am looking forward to a good year ahead,’’ he said.

The Shepparton man said his eyes lit up when the cross sailed almost directly in front of him and he just had to get it, despite others jumping in a fraction of a second before him.

Most of those present on the day come from Shepparton, but there are some who travel from Benalla and Yarrawonga for the Blessing of the Water.

Fr Derlis said good luck would come to those who retrieved the cross, but only if they believed in God.

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