The Orthodox Sacred Tradition of Holy Water (Part III)


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



How the Order of the Great Sanctification of Water at Theophany takes Place.

After the Epistle (Letter) of Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) is read about the mystical prototype baptism of the Judeans unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and of their spiritual food in the desert and the spiritual drink from the Rock, which is an image of the Coming of Jesus Christ. Finally, the Gospel Lesson of Saint Mark (Mark 1:9-12) is read in which the holy Apostle tells about the actual Baptism of the Lord.

How striking, lofty and Divine is the voice of the Church, with which it calls the Lord from the heavens unto our earthly waters! "Great art Thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works, and speech sufficeth not to sing praises of Thy wonders. For Thou, by Thy will, from nothingness hast brought all things into begin; by Thy Majesty Thou dost uphold all creation, and by Thy Providence Thou dost direct the world…All the reason-endowed powers tremble before Thee. The Sun singeth Thy praises, and the Moon glorifieth Thee; the Stars, also, stand before Thy presence. The Light obeyeth Thee. The depths shudder with awe before Thee; the water springs do Thy bidding. Thou hast spread out the heavens like a curtain. Thou hast established the earth upon the waters. With sand hast Thou walled in the sea. Thou hast shed abroad the air for breathing. The Angelic Powers serve Thee. The Archangelic Hosts adore Thee...For Thou, the God which cannot be circumscribed, Who art from everlasting and ineffable...Wherefore do Thou, O King Who lovest mankind, come down now also through the descent of Thy Holy Spirit, and sanctify this water."

The Priest blesses the water with his hand three times at the time of reading these words: "Wherefore do thou, O King Who lovest mankind, come down now also through the descent of Thy Holy Spirit, and sanctify this water."

In addition to the immersion of the precious Cross into the water three times, the Great Agiasmos (in Greek, "holy", is the name give to the water, sanctified during the Great Blessing of Water) is also blessed by the Sign of the Cross, and by more powerful and more complex prayers and hymns, than during the Lesser Blessing of Water.  

"Wherefore do Thou, O King Who lovest mankind, come down now also through the Descent of Thy Holy Spirit, and Sanctify this water. And impart unto it the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it a fountain of immortality; a gift of sanctification, a remission of sins, a healing of infirmities, a destruction of demons; unapproachable by hostile powers, filled with angelic might." Here it is requested that water be filled with angelic might, and if this is being requested then, with faith, the acquisition of such mystical power by the water is possible -- and will occur... The Priest prays with these powerful and commanding words. But before this, a Deacon raises almost the same supplications:

"That these waters may be sanctified by the power, and effectual operation, and descent of the Holy Spirit...

That there may descend upon these waters the cleansing operation of the Super-Substantial Trinity...

"That He will imbue them with the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan...

"That the Lord our God will send down the blessing of Jordan and sanctify these waters...

"That this water may be unto the bestowing of sanctification; unto the remission of sins; unto healing of soul and body: and unto every expedient service...

"That this water may be a fountain welling forth unto life eternal...

"That it may manifest itself effectual unto the averting of every machination of our foes, whether visible or invisible...

"For those who shall draw of it and make it unto the sanctification of their homes...

"That it may be for the purification of the souls and bodies of all those who, with faith, shall draw and partake of it...

After the reading of all prayers, the Priest immerses the precious Cross into the water three times, holding it upright with both hands while singing the Apolytikion (Dismissal ) Hymn of Theophany: "When Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling thee His Beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of the Word. O Christ Our God, Who hast appeared and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee." The Priest takes the vessel with holy water and sprinkles in all directions in the form of a cross. After this, the Christian faithful come up to venerate (kiss) the Cross that the Priest is holding and sprinkles each person with Holy Water.

Saint John Chrysostomos has said that the Water of Theophany remains unspoiled for many years, being fresh, pure and pleasing, as if it has been drawn from a living spring at this very moment. This is the miracle of God's grace, which even now everyone can see!

According to our Holy Church belief, the Agiasmos (Holy Water) isn't just of spiritual significance, but a new being, a spiritual-corporeal being, an intertwining of heaven and earth, of grace and matter, and a close one at that. This is why the Great Agiasmos (Holy Water of Theophany) according to Church Canons is viewed as a kind of a lower degree of Holy Communion: in those cases, when a penance and a prohibition against approaching (to receive) the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is imposed on a member of the Church due to committed sins, there is a provision, usual to Canons: "He or she may drink Agiasmo (Holy Water) only."

Many mistakenly think that water, blessed on the Eve of Theophany and water blessed on the day of Theophany are different, but in actuality, the same order of the Great Blessing of Water is used both, on the Eve and on the day of Theophany. The Holy Water of Theophany is a holy relic that should be found in the home of every Orthodox Christian. It is carefully and reverently kept in the Holy Icon corner next to the Holy Icons. It is not enough to have it at home it must be used throughout the year by the Orthodox Christians living at that home.


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


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

+Father George