Source: Melanie Mizenko | Times LeaderFive area Byzantine Catholic Churches joined together Sunday for the blessing of the Susquehanna. About two dozen people prayed for vitality and flood-protection at the Nesbitt Boat launch in Kingston.
WILKES-BARRE — From the end of the Nesbitt Boat Launch, the Rev. Mykhaylo Prodanets tossed a large cross sculpted from ice into the Susquehanna River on Sunday.
As he threw both the cross and a bucket of holy water into the river, Prodanets prayed, “In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.” He was invoking the name of the Holy Trinity during a service commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. The ceremony mirrors prayers and actions done during the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Theophany.
About two dozen Byzantine Catholic faithful joined Prodanets and two other priests and a deacon at the Annual Susquehanna River Blessing.
The Byzantine Catholic churches have been offering the service for more than 10 years, according to the Very Rev. Gary Mensinger. The churches used to hold the service on the Pierce Street bridge, but it has since moved to the boat launch.
Mensinger, who splits his time as pastor of both St. Michael’s in Pittston and St. Nicholas Parish in Swoyersville, said another purpose of the 30-minute service is to thank God for the vitality the river holds in the Wyoming Valley and to ask for protection from floods in the upcoming year.
“We bless the river for all the good it does,” Mensinger said, “and ask to keep the residents of the Wyoming Valley safe.”
Seeing his father throw the cross in the river is the highlight of the service for Ivan Prodanets, 11.
“It’s cool to throw things in the water,” he said with a shrug.
He and his brother, Stepan, 12, led the procession. The boys admitted they enjoy the program because it’s outside and they like being in the cold.
Prodanets, who is originally from Eastern Europe, said people in Russia celebrate by taking a swim in rivers and lakes, no matter how cold the weather is.
Jennifer Terza, of Edwardsville, was there with her family.
“There’s just something about getting churches together,” Terza said. “And everyone is welcome.”
To bless the holy water which was also thrown into the river, Prodanets breathed over the bucket three times, asking for blessing from the Holy Spirit.
During the service, people sang troparia, which are Byzantine hymns, and they prayed to God to bless the city and the country. To end the service, the faithful chanted “Mnohaja L’ita” — “God Grant You Many Years” in English — thanking God for the many blessings of the river.
Byzantine Catholics share the Eastern Christian traditions of the Orthodox churches, but are united under the Catholic Church and recognize the authority of the Pope of Rome.
Reach Melanie Mizenko at 570-991-6116 or on Twitter @TL_MMizenko.