River blessed in ancient Christian tradition

By Beau Ebenezer

January 11, 2014 Updated Jan 11, 2014 at 11:23 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The Illinois River was blessed Saturday morning in an ancient Christian tradition.

While it may be new to some, organizers hope it will be adopted by all faiths in the coming years.

Spirits were high as dozens of Christians celebrated the Baptism of Jesus Christ.

"We understand that through his decent into the River of Jordan to be baptized, he sanctified the waters," said Father Ciprian Sas of the All Saints Orthodox Church. "In remembrance of that event, we bless the waters such as rivers, oceans, and lakes."

Father Sas organized the 2nd Annual Blessing of the Illinois River.

This year, they prayed on the docked "Spirit of Peoria" Riverboat.

The All Saints Church includes members from all different types of European heritage, and they practice beliefs of the early Christian Church.

"It is a repeat basically within the history of the Orthodox Church," said church member, Frank Lagouros. "It is done year after year, and it is a blessing to be able to partake in all of that."

The blessing of the river is complete once a cross is thrown into it and retrieved.

"It is really neat to see it go into the water and be pulled back out," said church member, Lucy Opris. "Usually young men will go after it and retrieve it. Whoever gets it usually has a very big blessing."

While the river was too cold and icy this year, church members think everyone got that blessing.

They hope next year more people will join them, making it a long-lasting Peoria tradition.