Outside is the world; in privacy, faith
January is not just any month in Russia. It is much less so now, when the crisis inaugurated by Covid-19 two years ago is joined by the crisis with Ukraine.
But for the community Orthodox Church, January is a month that is far from both the health front and geopolitical tensions.
Because for the Russian Orthodox, the first month of the year is a time of celebration: they remember the baptism of christ, one of the most important moments of its calendar, culmination of the liturgical season of Christmas.
This is how this week the ceremonies carried out on the banks of lakes and rivers, throughout a territory immersed in chilling temperatures, were counted by the thousands. The rite requires immersion in the Jordan River to be remembered in a literal and brave way: believers submerge themselves completely in waters that in that area of the planet, at this time of year, are frozen.
As seen in the photo, bathing suits and nudity coexist with coats, boots, and wool hats.
From this side of the world, it is hard to imagine the precise edge, the cutting surface of the cold that crosses every pore of the participants in the rite.
Whoever obtained this image achieved the rare finding of showing two worlds: the one below the water, the one on the surface. The image suggests a certain hyper-realistic strangeness; perhaps that is why something in it reminds us of the monumental sculptures of the Australian Ron Mueck.
The man who performs the rite here is immersed in the water and in himself, concentrating on the most secret point of his faith, his body, pain, limits. He knows that a dry towel, a coat, a cup of tea await him outside. He also knows that there are threats out there: the virus that feeds on frozen bodies, the territorial bids that are decided by a few and suffered by many. But the latter is probably the least of your concerns.