From a reader:
I’ve heard it claimed that holy water blessed via the new rite isn’t true holy water since the new rite doesn’t include prayers of exorcism; in other words, according to the person telling me this, such water is merely “blessed water” (strange, I thought anything blessed was, by definition, holy). If you were me, how would you respond to such claims? Thanks in advance, and God bless.
I don’t think the entire question rests on the lack of an exorcism. There is more to the issue.
I just reviewed 1085 ff in De Benedictionibus, the post-Conciliar collection of “blessings”. I use ” ” there because only a couple of the prayers in the book that explicitly bless something. All the rest refer to the blessings God could give to someone nearby, or around the place, or who might look in the direction of something, etc. The book attempts to change the Church’s theology about blessings, effectively trying to eliminate the concept of the constitutive blessing and reducing every prayer and action to an invocative blessing.
In my review of the Ordo ad faciendam aquam benedictam, used outside Mass to “bless” water, even though I found a rubric that says that the “celebrans… dicit orationem benedictionis… the celebrant … says the prayer of blessing” and there are three options that follow, I cannot find in any of the three prayers, in the Latin mind you, an explicit statement that the water is to be blessed water. These paragraphs use the word “blessing” throughout and the prayers ask for blessings on those on whom the water is sprinkled. Also, the “celebrans” can be a deacon, which is not possible in the older rite, with the traditional Rituale Romanum.
Here is the first of the new prayers as an example:
Benedictus es, Domine, Deus omnipotens,
qui nos in Christo, aqua viva salutis nostrae,
benedicere dignatus es et intus reformare:
concede ut qui huius aquae aspersione
vel usu munimur,
renovata animae iuventute
per virtutem Sancti Spiritus
in novitate vitae iugiter ambulemus.
Blessed are you, Lord, Almighty God,
who deigned to bless us in Christ, the living water of our salvation,
and to reform us interiorly,
grant that we who are fortified
by the sprinking of or use of this water,
the youth of the spirit being renewed
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
may walk always in newness of life.
The others are not more explicit.
The difference with the older rite is not just that there is no exorcism or blending of exorcised and blessed salt. There is not explicit act of blessing. The fact that a deacon can use this rite means that it is not connected to the power of the priestly office. There is no sign of the cross indicated in the text. The words don’t say the water is blessed. [NB: In a comment below we learn that the CDW indicates that a sign of the Cross is to be made.]
In the older rite, which priests can use (reason #4378 for why we needed Summorum Pontificum) first salt is exorcised and then blessed. Then water is exorcised and then blessed. In the exorcism of the salt and the water, the two elements are addressed directly, personally, in the second person. By this exorcism they are entirely and without question ripped from the domination of the “Prince of this World”, as our Lord calls the our Enemy. Then they are blessed with explicit words and gestures of blessings. Here are the prayers for the exorcism and the blessing the water (before the exorcised blessed salt is added), with my emphases:
God’s creature, water, I cast out the demon from you in the name of God + the Father almighty, in the name of Jesus + Christ, His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy + Spirit. May you be a purified water, empowered to drive afar all power of the enemy, in fact, to root out and banish the enemy himself, along with his fallen angels. We ask this through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire. All: Amen.
O God, who for man’s welfare established the most wonderful mysteries in the substance of water, hearken to our prayer, and pour forth your blessing + on this element now being prepared with various purifying rites. May this creature of yours, used in your mysteries and endowed with your grace, serve to cast out demons and to banish disease. May everything that this water sprinkles in the homes and gatherings of the faithful be delivered from all that is unclean and hurtful; let no breath of contagion hover there, no taint of corruption; let all the wiles of the lurking enemy come to nothing. By the sprinkling of this water may everything opposed to the safety and peace of the occupants of these homes be banished, so that in calling on your holy name they may know the well-being they desire, and be protected from every peril; through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.
In the newer prayer, we pray that people have spiritual benefits, because we are invoking God’s blessing. The water is a symbol of those blessings. In the older prayer something entirely different seems to be going on. The water is taken from the realm of the profane and made something of the sacred realm. Then the water is used to bring about the things we pray, through God’s power of course, but by the use of the water. Use of the water is a direct contradiction to the powers of evil who wish us harm.
Furthermore, the water which has been blessed has itself now a role in the blessing of other things. Consider the principle that something cannot give what it does not have.
That said, the rite of blessing water during Mass found in the newer, Ordinary Form Missale Romanum, includes the words:
“… dignare, quaesumus, hanc aquam + benedicere… deign, we implore, to bless + this water… “
The second option (aren’t there always options in the Novus Ordo?) has:
“…hanc aquam, te quaesumus, + benedicas... we implore You that You + bless this water… “
Mind you, there is no exorcism of the water in the newer Missale Romanum during Mass. And keep in mind that in the older rite, the water was blessed outside of Mass. Easter water is another kettle of fish.
There is a world of difference, of sensibility, of theology, between what we find in the newer Missale Romanum and what we find De benedictionibus.
So, my answer is, I know without question that when I bless water with the older rite, it is blessed water, holy water. I have never used – and never will use – the newer book. But were I to imagine myself to do such a thing, I am not sure what there would be in the bucket when I was done.
That said, here is a little WDTPRS poll.
Choose your best answer and give reasons in the combox.
UPDATE 6 June 0914:
I received in email a link to a truly interesting article comparing the two different rites at greater length than I did. I writer and I come to substantially the same points, I think, but he has greater detail.
UPDATE 6 JUNE 0930 GMT:
Over at Rorate, who picked up this entry, there are a couple of amusing comments.
First, some wag suggests that what the newer rite outside of Mass produces is “nice water” rather than “holy water”. I think I’ll adopt that term for my own usage.
Also, there is this comment:
Cardinal Stickler has once been reported to say- “When I bless water, I never use the New Rite. I only use the Old Rite. Why? Because I’m interested in making Holy Water, not Happy Water.”
I don’t know if the late Cardinal said that or not, but – as Thucydides would say – that is what he ought to have said. I knew him a little and it sure sounds like him.
Honestly! Why did these pointy-headed liturgy geeks have to tinker around with something like this? Did the Council Fathers ask for a whole-cloth revision of the theology of blessings? Were people far and wide clamoring for a harder explanation of blessings? Were the faithful longing for head-scratchingly ambiguous rites? What about what the Council Fathers required even as they mandated a liturgical reform? Let nothing be done unless it is truly for the good of the faithful! Let nothing be done that is not an organic outgrowth of what went before!
I have never used the new book. I never will, either.