The Orthodox Sacred Tradition of Holy Water (Part II)

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,



"A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give Me a drink.' For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, 'How is it that You, being a Jew ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?' For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.' The woman said to Him, 'Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?' Jesus answered and said to her, 'whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (St. John  4:10-14).


Why the Church Blesses Water

Why does the Church, again and again, bless water, if it has already been blessed by the Baptism of the Son of God Himself?

Why, the fallen, even though renewed by God's grace, always, until death carries within us the seed of ancient sinful uncleanness, and for that reason, we are always capable of sinning, and by this, we, again and again, introduce into the surrounding world uncleanness and decay. For this reason, our Lord Jesus Christ, having ascended into heaven, left with us His Living and Life-giving Logos/Word, granted the faithful the right to bring down to earth the blessing of the Heavenly Father through the strength of their faith and prayer, and send down the Comforter Spirit of Truth, Who is always present in the Church of Christ, so that despite the inexhaustible seed of sin and uncleanness in the hearts of mankind, the Church would always have an inexhaustible source of sanctification and life.

In keeping this 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 that he uses 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 fruits that nourish 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.

Why Water is Blessed in Special Vessels

Like everything else in the Church, the vessel (Font) in which the blessing of water takes place carries great symbolic meaning.

 Externally, this vessel resembles a chalice for communion.  The vessel for the blessing of water is a large bowl on a low stand with a round base for placement on a table.  On the eastern side of the bowl (font), there are places where three candles are put at the start of the blessing of water, in the image of the Holy Trinity, which sanctifies and enlightens people by God's grace.  As a vessel and container (font) of God's grace, the bowl (font) for the blessing of water approaches in its symbolic meaning the Eucharistic cup -- the chalice (translated from Greek - a vessel for drinking) -- and, like the chalice, signifies the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, in Whose womb formed the human nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The round base of the font for the blessing of the water symbolizes the circle of the EARTHLY Church, the round font itself, into which water is poured, symbolizes the heavenly Church, and both together they are symbolic of the Mother of God, as the Most Pure Vessel of God's grace.

The Baptismal bath possesses the same basic symbolic meaning.  This vessel (font) is also made to look like a cup, but of a significantly great size than the vessel for the blessing of water, and on a high stand.

How the Order of the Great Sanctification of Water Takes Place

The order of the Blessing of Water which takes place during the Feast-Day of Theophany is called great because of an especially festive ceremony, imbued with the remembrance of the Lord's Baptism, in which the Church sees not only the prototype of the mystical washing of sins but also the actual blessing of the nature of water itself, through the immersion into it of God in the flesh.

 The Great Blessing of Water sometimes takes place at the end of the Divine Liturgy, after the prayer behind the amvon, and sometimes at the end of Vespers after the litany:  "Let us complete our evening prayer..."  It takes place during the Divine Liturgy of Theophany, and also on the Eve of Theophany when the Eve falls on any day of the week besides Saturday or Sunday.  

 The Great Blessing of Water is begun with the singing of hymns:  "The voice of the Lord crieth out over the water, saying: Come, receive ye all the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of understanding, the spirit of the fear of God, even Christ Who is made manifest", "Today is the nature of water sanctified" and others.  Three readings from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (35:1-10; 53:1-13; 12:3-6) are read next.  The great Prophet of the Old Testament thrice foretold the Lord's Baptism in the Jordan River, which took place at the junction of the two Testaments.  He expressed joy and hope of the Church in the drawing of water from the source of salvation:  "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters...Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon ;Him while He is near:  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:1, 6-7).

(To be continued)


 Please note:  Our church keeps Great Agiasmo (Holy Water) inside the holy Altar throughout the year and you may, as often as you wish, ask for it at any time of the year.  This also applies to Holy Oil (Holy Unction). If you or a family member is ill you may ask your priest to read a prayer over you and then to anoint you with Holy Oil (Ευχέλαιον).

 Small special bottles with holy water will be given out on Sunday following the Great Blessing of Water.


 Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos

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 With sincere agape in His Divine Theophany,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

 + Father George