End Of A Blessed Year For '08 Cross Retriever
End Of A Blessed Year For '08 Cross Retriever
By <mailto:klowry@...> Klint Lowry | The Suncoast News
Published: January 3, 2009
ELON, N.C. - On a mid-December morning, Chris Kavouklis was nearing the end
of his first semester in college. Finals were nearly over, and he was
looking forward to coming home to Tampa.
Besides seeing family and friends, Kavouklis' winter break will include a
very special event. He will be in Tarpon Springs this Tuesday, Jan. 6, for
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral's
Celebration to fulfill a
<http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/topic/k/sacred-duty/> sacred duty and honor.
During the celebration's traditional procession, he will lead a group of
young men from the cathedral to Spring Bayou, where each of them hopes to be
the one who will succeed him as the next successful cross diver.
One of the most <http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/topic/k/sacred-holidays/>
sacred holidays on the Eastern Orthodox calendar, Epiphany commemorates the
<http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/topic/k/baptism-of-jesus/> baptism of Jesus in
the River Jordan.
The St. Nicholas
Celebration is one of the largest in North America, drawing attention from
around the world. Every year, dozens of young men between the ages 16 and 18
participate in the dive for the cross, one of the highlights of the
For the hopeful Greek Orthodox young men from in and around Tarpon Springs,
diving for the cross is a rite of passage they grow up waiting for. To be
the one who emerges from
<http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/topic/k/spring-bayou/> Spring Bayou with the
cross in his hand is to have been given a divine gift. He is carried back to
the cathedral on the shoulders of his fellow divers where the main
celebrant, often an archbishop, bestows a special blessing that is said to
last for the ensuing year.
As he looked toward his return to Tarpon Springs, Kavouklis recalled what it
was like nearly a year ago, when the blessing fell upon him.
It was the third and final year to dive for Chris and his twin brother,
Michael, members of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, in Tampa.
They were familiar with the proceedings, such as the mad dash to jump in the
bayou and swim to one of the
<http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/topic/k/small-boats/> small boats in which the
divers wait for the throwing of the cross. Chris Kavouklis remembered being
at ease as he climbed into one of the boats.
"I tried to be as relaxed as possible," he said. While participants compete
mightily during the cross dive, they do so in the belief the outcome is
Kavouklis said the 2008 dive was a bit of a blur. The aftermath - being
carried back to the cathedral, walking back into the Byzantine-style
sanctuary, cross in hand, standing before Archbishop Demetrios, the Greek
Orthodox primate of America - he had seen it all many times. Now that it was
happening to him, however, it was an amazing experience.
"I was so happy, but I was so shocked," he said. "Everything happened fast.
It was like being in a movie. That's the only way I can describe it."
The elation lasted for a few days, then "things went back to a normal life,"
"Normal" has been pretty good for the 19-year-old, who has been on a bit of
an ecumenical path in recent years. A graduate of Tampa's Jesuit High
School, he is off to a good start at Elon University, in north-central North
Founded in 1889 by the Protestant denomination now known as the United
Church of Christ, the former Elon College was named the nation's No. 1
"school to watch" in the U.S. News & World Report "America's Best Colleges
Guide" for 2009.
Not only have his studies at Elon gone well, but as a red-shirted freshman
fullback, he can look forward next season to helping improve the Phoenix
football team's 8-4 record in 2008. Prior to a 1999 renaming, Elon sports
teams were known as the Fighting Christians.
Chris won't have the honor of leading his younger brother, John, to
<http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/topic/k/spring-bayou/> Spring Bayou during the
2009 Epiphany procession. John is still a year away from being eligible to
Next year, when John is 16, "I'll give him some advice," Chris said. "He'll
have to figure most of it out on his own."
Their father, Nick, said he is looking forward to watching John dive in
2010, though he is still savoring last year's thrill. Chris was the first in
three generations of Kavouklis divers to come out of the water with the
cross, said Nick, who never managed the cherished feat.
"We don't want to be greedy," he kiddingly said.
Klint Lowry can be reached at 727-815-1067 or at klowry@...
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