In another entry I answered a question about water suitable for valid baptism. Someone asked about Holy Water. Here are a few notes about different blessed waters we Catholics use and enjoy. This is not meant to be exhaustive, of course. I just want to give a snapshot to those of you who haven’t heard of these things before.
The blessing and use of Holy Water goes back to very early Christian times. Using the traditional Roman Ritual, the water for Holy Water is first exorcised. Exorcised salt is mixed with the water. In both exorcisms the water and salt are addressed directly, as if they were almost sentient, “O you creature of salt, be thou a blessed salt”, and so forth. The salt has symbolic value, of course, but sure the saltiness of the water helps retard algae growth.
Baptismal Water or Easter Water is blessed at Easter and at Pentecost. Easter Water is blessed while mixing in Oil of Catechumens and Sacred Chrism. The Paschal Candle is also held in the water. There is a rite for blessing Baptismal Water apart from Easter or Pentecost. This is the water we generally use for baptism, though in a pinch, other true water may be used.
There is a blessing of water for the reconciliation of a church, or for the blessing of an altar at the time of the consecration of a church called Gregorian Water, which involves the admixture of blessed ashes and blessed salt and blessed wine.
There is also a blessing of water at Epiphany which involves the basic salt and water combination of Holy Water. However, there is a nice rite which can be performed in the context of, say, Vespers which involves some grand marching around and singing psalms. This water would be used to bless houses, along with the blessed chalk, of course. I would like to do this one someday, in the context of sung vespers!
On different feast days priests could bless water in honor of such and such a saint, for example, St. Raymond Nonnatus or St. Ignatius. Lots of these.
And we mustn’t forget the Benedictio maris, blessing of the sea, wherein, I believe God has already mixed in the salt. Spectacular prayers. I’d love to do that one sometime, preferably with a procession with a statue of the Blessed Mother to the shoreline, with the city’s oompa band. There are blessings of a spring and a well, as well. When you don’t get your water from a tap, a state to which we may all soon be returning, you want a priest around to bless your water source. The blessing for the well includes the serious “repulsis hinc phantasmaticis collusionibus, ac diabolicis insidiis, purificatus atque emendatus semper hic puteus perseveret.” Nice clausula.
Anyway, we Catholics are deeply interested in water and we like our water blessed, thank you very much. A thousand and one uses!
The devil hates this stuff.