My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE FEAST OF THE DIVINE THEOPHANY AND HOLY WATER
The Holy Feast of Lights (Ton Photon)
The Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church commemorates the Baptism of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the manifestation of God the Holy Trinity. The celebration is observed on January 6th. On this most solemn and glorious day, the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, and the Great Blessing of the Water is conducted. We also refer to the Theophany of Our Lord as the "Feast of Lights" ("Ton Photon"). It is called the Feast of Lights, as Saint Gregory the Theologian characterizes it, because of the baptism, illumination of the catechumens, and because of the lighting of fires.
The Orthodox Christian believers assemble on this momentous celebration to worship at the Divine Liturgy, to receive Holy Communion, to be blessed with Holy Water and to take home a small bottle of it to use throughout the new year.
As Orthodox Christians we believe that Holy Water has the power to sanctify and heal us. It is our practice to drink a sip of Holy Water when someone is ill, before taking a trip, at times of distress, when one feels spiritually challenged, when a child awakened because of a nightmare when is under stress, students prior to examinations, etc., and this only after fasting (i.e., before meals) and prayer. It strengthens the powers of our soul--if it is done with faith, prayer and reverence, and one does not merely expect a mechanical result from it.
During our entire life, there is a great blessing next to us--Holy Water. Blessed Water is a "form of God's grace: it cleanses the believers from spiritual uncleanness and sanctifies and strengthens them for the spiritual struggle of salvation in God."
"Blessed Water", wrote the luminary Dimitri Hersonsky, "has the power to sanctify souls and bodies of everyone who makes use of it." "Partaken with faith and prayer it heals our bodily infirmities." Holy Water quenches the fire of passions and drives away evil spirits--this is why dwellings (houses) and all things, which are being blessed, are sprinkled with Holy Water.
During the divine service of the Blessing of the Waters, we hear the priest praying, "And give to it the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it a fountain of immortality, a gift of sanctification, for the remission of sins, protection against infirmities, destructive to evil forces, inaccessible to opposing powers, filled with angelic might.
That all who draw from it or partake of it may find in it purification of souls and bodies, healing of infirmities, sanctification of houses, every fit benefit. For You are our God, Who through water and the Spirit renewed our nature corrupted by sin..."
The Blessing of Water was accepted by the Church from the Holy Apostles and their successors. But the first example was given by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself when He immersed Himself into the Jordan River and made holy the nature of water.
"Water was not always in need of sanctification. There were times when everything on earth was pure and holy. "And God saw everything that He had made", says the Book of Genesis, "was very good" (Genesis 1:31). At that time, before the Fall of man, all was created by God's word, all came to life through the Holy Spirit that dwelled above the water. Everything on earth bore the seal of God's all-sanctifying blessing, and because of this, earthly elements served for the benefit of man: they supported life and preserved the body from destruction. Living in these harmonious surroundings of Paradise, man, as promised by God, was meant to be immortal. "For God made not death" (Wisdom of Solomon 1:13).
But man himself, through association with an unclean spirit, took into his soul the seed of uncleanness. And then the Spirit of God stepped away from the unclean creation: "And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh" (Genesis 6:3). Now, everything that the hands of sinners touched became unclean, everything became a weapon of sin, and therefore was deprived of God's blessing and was subjected to damnation. The elements, that previously served man, changed. The earth now produced thorns and wolves; the air, saturated with decay, became dangerous and sometimes lethal. Water, having turned into the runoff of sewage, became contagious, dangerous and now in the hands of God's righteous judgment began to act as a weapon of punishment of the unrighteous.
But this does not mean that mankind has been denied Holy Water. The spring, brought out of a mountainside by Moses streamed, of course, not ordinary water but special water. Not ordinary was the water in the Well of the Samaritan woman, which had been dug out by the forefather Jacob and later sanctified by our Savior's conversation at this source.
The idea of Holy Water is encountered even in the Old Testament: "and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel" (Numbers 5:17). But water that is altogether special runs in the Jordan River. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ appeared in the Jordan River in order to sanctify the essence of water and to make it a source of blessing for mankind. That is why at the time of Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan River, it was as if the wonder of creation was repeated: "The heavens opened up, the Spirit of God descended, and the Voice of the Heavenly Father was heard: "This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased" (St. Matthew 3:17). Thus, blessing of water took place for the first time after the fall of man into sin."
"...In keeping the commandment of God, the Holy Church by the Logos/Word of God, by means of Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) and prayers always blesses not only the man himself, but also everything in the world. By this the Church limits the spread of the sinful uncleanness and prevents the multiplication of destructive consequences of our sins.
The Church blesses land, asking God for the blessing of fertility; it blesses bread which serves us as food and water which quenches our thirst. Without blessing, without sanctification, could this mortal food and water sustain our life? "It is not the growing of the fruits that nourishes man: but that it is Thy word, which preserveth them that put their trust in Thee" (Wisdom of Solomon 16:26). From this emerges the answer to the question of why the Church blesses water. "By blessing water the Church returns to the element of water its original purity and holiness, and through the strength of prayer and the Logos/Word of God, brings down onto the water the Lord's blessing and the grace of the Most Holy and Life-Giving Spirit. (Source: Translated from Russian by Yulia Gray, 2005)
(To be continued)
Please Note: All our Orthodox Christian traditions have a greater depth, and history and theology. The majority of Orthodox Christian faithful have, unfortunately, an incomplete knowledge of the Faith and Holy Tradition. It is therefore common among our fellow Christians to either take things for granted or to easily dismiss them as ancient and meaningless.
We have inherited a great spiritual treasure and if we are willing to understand it, then we can find an enormous spiritual benefit and reward.
Please do not let small children play or abuse the Holy Water given to you. Teach them that the Holy Water is very special and like medicine we must always be careful how and when to use it.
BLESSING OF HOMES AND BUSINESSES
It is our tradition, to invite your priest to bless your home with Holy Water soon after the Holy Theophany. Prepare by cleaning the house and opening and lighting all the rooms in your house. Items needed for a house blessing are:
- Icon of Christ or of Christ and Theotokos
- A bowl for the Holy Water
- Incense and incense burner
- A sprig of basil (available at the local grocery store.)
Many of these items can be bought at the Saint Andrew Bookstore. Also, know that your church keeps Holy Water for the entire year and if you run out of yours, you only have to ask your priest.
PRAYER BEFORE PARTAKING OF HOLY WATER
O Lord, my God, may this Holy Water be for the remission of my sins, for the enlightenment of my mind, for the strengthening of my soul and body, for the health of my soul and body, for the conquering of my passions and infirmities, according to Thy mercy that has no limit, through the prayers of Thy Most Pure Mother and all Thy Saints. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God