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End Of A Blessed Year For '08 Cross Retriever

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  • Rev Fr John Brian
    http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/content/2009/jan/03/pi-end-of-a-blessed-year/ End Of A Blessed Year For 08 Cross Retriever By
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      http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/content/2009/jan/03/pi-end-of-a-blessed-year/

      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
      <http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/topic/k/epiphany-celebration/> Epiphany
      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
      <http://suncoastpasco.tbo.com/topic/k/epiphany-celebration/> Epiphany
      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
      celebration.

      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
      preordained.

      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,"
      Kavouklis said.

      "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
      Carolina.

      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
      dive.

      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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