The River Congo, Our Jordan River
The main feature of water is the flow, and when the water flows, it can hardly be intercepted. Even the biggest dams people build may seem powerless to stop it. In the Old Testament, namely in the Book of Genesis, it becomes pretty clear what “deluge” means.
However, water has another feature, its unifying power. Seas, lakes and rivers unite places, allow the passage of vessels, transfer knowledge and goods and contribute to creation, progress and unity. Let us also remember the Book of Genesis, where God’s Spirit “moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen. 1: 2), and the beginning of the world’s creation became a reality.
Epiphany means the time of the sanctification of all things, man and creation, by the Grace of the unifying Spirit. Experiencing this truth a few days ago we, the Orthodox Christians of the newly planted Church of Congo-Brazzaville, headed for the banks of the Congo River in order to participate in the blessing of creation. We went to the river, which on that day was a mental image of our own Jordan River, where we were all spiritually renewed and saw Christ, the True Light that enlightens and sanctifies every man who comes into the world. The “King-River Congo,” according to a native expression, is the biblical Jordan River that comes as far as the African equator, since the water does not make discriminations, to irrigate the land of this Orthodox community and give life to it. This is the way God “Who has revealed Himself” gathers His Church and strengthens her.
We went out of the church of the Lord’s Resurrection, located in the country’s capital city, having partaken of the Body and Blood of Christ our Lord, aiming to go in procession to the banks of the second largest river in the world. The processions of the Orthodox Faith have a confessional as well as a didactic character, let alone for us here in Congo-Brazzaville, since the period in which we have been living – from the establishment of the local Orthodox Church until today – might as well be characterized as “Apostolic”! Besides, it is only thirty two years since then. Thus we are experiencing our own first Christian century in the year 2017, that is, symbolically speaking, we are in our own “32 AD”, whatever that means in practice …
This is the glory of the Church: Christ and His “children of light”, who tirelessly confess Jesus Christ as the world’s Savior and Redeemer! Here, our processions differ from the respective ones of our blessed homeland, since there is no official religion in this country. Here, our procession passes through our fellow citizens, who either engage themselves in traditional religious practices and rituals, or practice sorcery, or belong to another Christian confession, or experience the chaotic delusion of a sect (a person-centered “religious” group with a Christian disguise) hurt just as deeply by prejudice. The Epiphany procession is a collective expression of the Truth of the Triune God in a society enslaved to superstition and inequality, in a society characterized by lack of opportunities, in a society where the human person is most often devalued.
We tossed the precious cross into the Congo River, our own Jordan River. We can see that both rivers, the Congo and the Jordan, vivify God’s creation with their waters and that they are flowing at the same time. On our return to the Capital Cathedral we sang the psalm “who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders”. Christ promised us that he would not leave us orphaned. We can see that in the Epiphany procession, which is growing year after year, increasing in attendance and participation.
Our brothers are seeking the Light! O Lord, keep Your Light shining for us, inundating with the momentum of the Holy Spirit not only the natives’ souls so that they can experience Your heavenly blessings, but also our Orthodox Greek brothers, so that they do not forget in the whirlpool of life the offer of actual love and help for these African souls who have just tasted the redemptive power of their own”Jordan River”!
† Panteleimon of Brazzaville and Gabon