Orthodox Christians hold "Blessing of the Water"

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Sunday Orthodox Christians from four churches gathered to celebrate the baptism of Jesus.

The Blessing of the Water is an annual tradition that brings worshippers to the Ross Barnett Reservoir.

The congregations gather at Old Trace Park and make a pilgrimage to the waters edge while singing hymns.

The yearly event also honors the beginning of Jesus' public ministry.

Eighteen year old Ryan Harnor bravely dived into the frigid water to retrieve the cross, tossed in as reminder of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River.

Churches from Clinton, Jackson, Madison and Vicksburg take part in the service.

Several families in the congregations have attended for decades.

"Very cold.  Of course not as bad I expected, but when I first jumped in it sort of knocked the breath out of me," said lone cross diver Ryan Harnor.

"This time of the year the church celebrates the date of the baptism.  Today it was special, but we've been coming here for many years," said Sam Davit of St. Peter Orthodox Church.

Robert Hegwood of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church said, "We have a common celebration of theophany, the Blessing of the Water. So this is the biggest body of water around to bless."

All four congregations fellowshiped with a meal following the service.