The Original Polar Bear Club
Just as the weather begins to get wintry in our area, I start to see signs advertising the chills and thrills of a Polar Bear Club Dive into the frosty waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It always surprises me that even without the framework of Orthodoxy to follow, somehow the Liturgical Calendar is ingrained into the mainstream human soul.
Orthodox Christians have been part of the original Polar Bear Club for thousands of years, plunging into the depths of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and oceans after the waters are blessed every Theophany. Our Facebook accounts and Instagram feeds are full of amazing photographs of bishops clothed in glorious vestments, icicles dripping from their eyebrows and beards, standing on the edge of a cross cut into the ice as the faithful slip beneath the frigid waters, a stinging remembrance of their baptism and life after death.
My husband has been the priest for our parish (a mission church of the Orthodox Church in America) for nearly nine years. We minister to the locals of our area year-round and are revitalized each summer as the vacationers swarm into our seaside town and swell the numbers in attendance for Divine Services. In the burning heat of the summer, as I watch our three little children playing in the sand and splashing in the salty water of the Atlantic Ocean, I am reminded of the achingly cold day in January when our parish joined the faithful of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese sister parish, Saint George. Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey blessed the choppy sea waters that we rely on for so much, flinging Holy Water in a sparkling shower over the beach in the shape of a cross, releasing doves into the brilliantly blue sky, pouring the sanctified water into the ocean, and finally tossing a cross into the waters to be retrieved by brave teenagers shivery with cold.
Begun by Saint George’s numerous years ago, the annual Blessing of the Atlantic has already become a tradition that the faithful of this area look forward to every January. My husband and I wonder whether someday our little ones might grow up into teens who are eager to join their friends in the plunge to bring the cross back to the shore. For now, though, I am content to keep swimming to the dog-days of summer, reminding our trio of children to make the sign of the Cross over themselves before they dash off to jump and play in the blessed waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
My husband normally serves with the clergy during the Blessing of the Atlantic, but this time he recorded it with his drone and GoPro cameras. You may see the video below. Enjoy!
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