Theodore Pasialis’s feat in fishing a holy cross from the bottom of the ocean as part of the Greek Orthodox Church’s celebration of the Epiphany is supposed to bring him a year’s luck. So why does he feel bad?
Because it was not so much luck but arduous years of hard training that put him in front of the pack of more than 150 young men from the Greek Australian community in the 50 metre sprint from a barge in Yarra Bay at La Perouse.
The former elite swimmer and gold medallist in the men’s 1500 metres at the 2008 Oceania Swimming Championships has won the Blessing of the Waters race twice before, in 2011 and 2012. So “it may be controversial in the Greek community”, he laughs. “I feel bad going in for the holy cross event, because it is an unfair advantage”.
Several thousand members of Sydney’s Greek community turned out for the festivities with traditional Greek dancing and food – souvlaki, spanakopita and honey donuts called loukoumades – typical of a Greek glenti, or party.
Simultaneous events around the country have been celebrating the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The Blessing of the Waters ceremony commemorates “the sacredness of creation which gives us the responsibility to care for the world and care for one anther”, said Dr Philip Kariatlis, academy director at St Andrews Greek Orthodox Theological College.
The winner, Pasialis, 24, was a bit hazy on the spiritual underpinnings of the race. But he reckoned it was sheer luck that let him to find the cross. “That is the lucky bit. You need a bit of luck to see it”, he says. The prize? A small religious token – and a year’s luck.