Water and the Bible
Water represents life, for without it, no living thing can survive. In the creation of water, God destined it to also be the means of life for our souls, for it is through water that we come to the life of Sanctifying Grace in our souls in the Sacrament of Baptism.
Salt, sprinkled by the Prophet Elisha, healed the barren waters. A rock, struck by Moses, brought forth life giving water in the desert. A Centurion pierced the side of Christ, bringing forth a stream of blood and water. From Creation, to the parting of the Red Sea, to the Miracle at Cana, to Our Lord’s Baptism – the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, is filled with passages that illustrate the spiritual importance of water. But for the Catholic, water is first and foremost a reminder of our baptism—one of the most significant events in the life of a Christian. In baptism, we are freed from sin, born anew spiritually, and adopted into the covenant family of God. Many of the saints, realizing the importance of baptism, venerated the place and day of their baptism with great fervor, just as we would celebrate our physical birthday. St. Louis de Montfort even changed his last name to “de Montfort” as Montfort was the town in which he was baptized.
Liturgical use of water
The ritual use of this precious substance is ancient and once again rooted in the Old Testament. When the Israelites entered the Temple, they had to undergo purification by immersion in a mikvah (Jewish purification ceremony). These ritual purifications by water prefigured Christian Baptism. St. John the Baptist, in another foreshadowing of the Sacrament, used water in his Baptism of repentance. Most importantly of all, Christ Himself established the pouring of water as the form for the Sacrament of Baptism.
The water for Baptism is solemnly blessed on Easter Saturday during the Easter Vigil, but for centuries, the Church has blessed water for other uses, and this water is called “Holy Water.” During the Asperges, at the beginning of a Solemn Mass, the Priest sprinkles the people with Holy Water while psalm 50 is sung. Before entering the Church, it is a pious custom to bless oneself with holy water in the form of a cross while making a brief act of Contrition. Holy water is also used by the Priest in all other kinds of blessings, the blessings of Churches, altars, and other Sacramentals.
These ceremonies and customs are reminders to us of our Baptism, and through the power of the Holy water we can dispel the devil, and remit venial sin. By using Holy Water, we purify our souls and are better prepared to receive the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. Let us quote one prayer from the blessing of Holy Water:
“O God….grant that this creature of Thine (water) may be endowed with divine grace to drive away devils and to cast out diseases, that whatever in the houses or possessions of the faithful may be sprinkled by this water, may be freed from everything unclean, and delivered from what is hurtful…. Let everything that threatens the safety of peace of the dwellers therin be banished by the sprinkling of this water; so that the health which they seek by calling upon Thy Holy Name may be guarded from all assault.”
These prayers ascend to heaven each time you take holy water and sprinkle a drop either for yourself or for another, whether he be present or absent; and God’s blessings descend for soul and body. The devil hates holy water because of its power over him. He cannot long abide in a place or near a person that is often sprinkled with this blessed water. “I have found by experience that there is nothing from which the devils fly more quickly than from holy water. They also fly from the cross, but they return almost immediately. Certainly, the power of holy water must be great; for my part, my soul feels particular comfort in taking it, and very generally a refreshment and interior delight which I cannot express” - St. Theresa of Avila
Holy water is not limited to Churches; in fact, many Catholics have holy water fonts in their homes or keep holy water in small bottles. Did we realize now, as we shall realize after death, the many benefits which may be derived from holy water, we would use it far more frequently, and with greater faith and reverence.
Catholics often keep a font near their front door, in their bedrooms' doorways, and near the family altar. Use the water in the same way you do at church, dipping your fingers into it and making the Sign of the Cross. Bless your children with it as you tuck them in at night, using your thumb to sign them with a cross of holy water on their foreheads. Use it in time of temptation to dispel the devil, during fires storms or other calamities.
Holy water, sprinkled with faith and piety, can move the Sacred Heart to bless your loved ones and protect them from all harm of soul and body. When worry and fear take possession of your heart, hasten to you holy water font, and give you dear ones the benefit of the Church’s prayers.
The Poor Souls
Only in Purgatory can one understand how ardently a poor soul longs for holy water. If we desire to make a host of intercessors for ourselves, let us try to realize now some of their yearnings, and never forget them at the holy water font. The holy souls nearest to Heaven may need the sprinkling of only one drop to relieve their pining souls.
Excerpted from Catholic Encyclopedia, Holy Water - a means of Spiritual Wealth, fisheaters.com and other sources
© 2015 Carmelite Monastery