Water as a Symbol in Liturgy
Water gives life and purifies. These two natural characteristics invite its use in liturgy. Water is used in the sacrament of baptism (poured on the baptized person, or the person is immersed in water) and in the sacrament of the Eucharist (a little water is poured into chalice along with wine, symbolizing humanity of Christ united with his divinity). As an apotropaic element, water is also blessed to be used within and outside of the liturgy. A purifying sprinkling with water is attested already in Merovingian (c. 500-750 AD) and Carolingian (750-987) monasteries (Gaul and Germany), where it developed into a weekly blessing and sprinkling before the liturgy in the 8th century. This rite was accompanied by Psalm 51 and the antiphon Asperges me – Sprinkle me. Parish churches in the Middle Ages slowly adopted this custom and it was included in the appendix of the 1570 Missal. However, the purifying motive was gradually substituted by that of remembering one’s baptism and this is how it was taken up by the 1970 Missal (the current liturgy). The sprinkling of holy water during funeral follows the motive of baptism as well and the sprinkling is accompanied by the following prayer:
In the waters of baptism N. died with Christ and rose with him to new life. May he / she now share with him eternal glory.
Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling
The current liturgy offers the rite of blessing and sprinkling of holy water that can be celebrated on Sundays, especially in Easter Time, as a memorial of baptism. This rite substitutes the usual Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass, expressing the purifying action of baptism and reminding all the Christians of their commitment to live as people reborn from water and the spirit.
Especially the prayer of blessing used during Easter Time shows how water gives a new life:
Lord our God, in your mercy be present to your people’s prayers, and, for us who recall the wondrous work of our creation and the still greater work of our redemption, graciously bless this water. For you created water to make the fields fruitful and to refresh and cleanse our bodies. You also made water the instrument of your mercy: for through water you freed your people from slavery and quenched their thirst in the desert; through water the Prophets proclaimed the new covenant you were to enter upon with the human race; and last of all, through water, which Christ made holy in the Jordan, you have renewed our corrupted nature in the bath of regeneration. Therefore, may this water be for us a memorial of the Baptism we have received, and grant what we may share in the gladness of our brothers and sisters who at Easter have received their Baptism. Through Christ our Lord.
The rite of blessing sprinkling of Holy Water will be celebrated on:
- Saturday, November 21, during the 5:30PM Holy Mass
- Sunday, November 22, during the 7:30AM; 9:30AM; 11:30AM and 8:30PM Holy Masses.
* Please bring your own water to be Blessed.
It is the intention of the Church, that Holy Water is used by the faithful as a remembrance of their baptism and new life in Christ.