From a reader…
I got to wondering about the properties of holy water. Since so much water has been blessed before and recycled throughout time, does the church have comments about the length that water stays “holy”? Or is it a possibility that the tap water from the faucet could contain holy water if the water stays blessed to the end of time?
Speaking of wondering… I have sometimes wondered about the effective range of a blessing… 20 meters? I’m pretty good with a 9mm at that range, but not with an aspergilum. But I think I could manage a blessing at some distance.
But, duration of the blessing? That depends on what is being blessed. Let’s make a few distinctions.
Firstly, let’s think about things that go bad or get corrupted and those that don’t.
For example, we have food stuffs, obviously meant for relatively quick consumption. If on the Easter Vigil I bless all sorts of foods people bring to church, I know that they will be consumed quickly. If I bless, for example, wine, it could be years before it is consumed, but it will be consumed. If I bless salt… salt is really stable, so it will endure as long as it is not diluted by water, etc. But, blessed wine that is opened can corrupt, as can blessed sausages and cakes etc.. As in the case of the accidents of bread and wine remaining in the Eucharist, if the elements are corrupted and they cease to be what they were (wine turns to vinegar, etc.) they stop being blessed.
Water can go bad. If you let water stagnate (not move) it can develop algae and get nasty in a hurry. I am sure that no one wants to use that. This is probably one of the reasons why, in the traditional blessing of Holy Water, exorcised and blessed salt is added. Salt makes the water inhospitable to many critters. There is also a scriptural, symbolic basis for adding salt to water, and the blessing prayers reference it. The prophet Elijah poured salt into the waters at Jericho. Our Lord talks about salt. Holy Church has used blessed salt since her earliest years. For example, it is placed on the tongue of those to be baptized in the rite of baptism. In ancient times, salt was given to catechumens several times before they were baptized.
Next, things are blessed because God blesses them.
God blesses things on His own or through those who can bless, usually the priest in the case of the constitutive blessing. Contrary to the horrid Books of Blessings (which I will never use, because the texts don’t bless things), there are two kinds of blessings. The invocative blessing calls down a blessing by God on a person while the constitutive blessing establishes something as a blessed thing in a way that persists. A more solemn and deeper version of this is the consecration. For example, we bless medals and statues and water and so forth, but we consecrate altars and cemeteries. People can be consecrated, too, as in the case of religious and the ordained. If the bishop blesses you on the way out of church, you have received a blessing. If the bishop consecrates you at solemn profession or ordination, then you are thereafter a consecrated person.
By the way, abuse of a consecrated thing, place or person is the sin of sacrilege. If you vandalize a church, you commit two sins, destruction of property and sacrilege. Both must be confessed. If you visit the Diocese of Libville and, irritated after one of Bishop Fatty McButterpant’s sermons you bust him in the chops, you have to confess two sins: you hit a person and you hit a consecrated person, which is sacrilege. There are mitigating circumstances for your guilt, of course… but I digress.
Back to blessings.
God blesses things and people, usually through God’s agent.
Sure, God can bless a faucet such that whatever water might issue forth from thence would be blessed water. Perhaps that’s what God does with the spring that popped up at Lourdes. Apparently many miraculous healings have occurred in conjunction with contact with “Lourdes water”. God can do that. I don’t know how to do that. It is well beyond the pay grade of a human being, ordained or not, to bless a faucet or spring such that it will thereafter produce holy water in perpetuity.
So, turn on the faucet and I can bless what is in the sink or the container underneath, but that’s it. And as long as that water is water (it hasn’t dried up and it hasn’t turned into a mass of green algae clogged goo) it is blessed.
On another note, sometimes I get questions about adding more regular water to holy water to increase its quantity. Is it, for example, possible to add less than 50ml to 100ml and get 150ml? 25mm to 100ml? If at the offertory the priest can up to 20% of water to the wine in the chalice without making substance of the wine doubtful, can less than 20ml be added to 100ml of holy water to produce 120ml… and so on and so on?
This practice isn’t forbidden. Neither is it recommended. It seems to me that people do this because they want holy water and Father isn’t blessing enough or often enough. Hence, they creatively figured out a work around.
I would not do this.
Instead, work on Father to bless more water (hopefully with the older, traditional Rituale Romanum).
We are dealing with a sacramental.
“Sacramental” reality is not less real than what we perceive by our senses. Blessed water is perceptibly saltier than usual, but so is regular water that has salt added. We can’t taste test it and tell the difference.
Demons can tell the difference.
The Enemy really hates holy water. One of the explicit purposes of holy water is to put demons to flight wherever it is sprinkled. In exorcising and blessing the salt used for holy water, the priest says: “may [it] rid whatever it touches or sprinkles of all uncleanness and protect it from every assault of evil spirits.” In exorcising and blessing the water: “I exorcise you so that you may put to flight all the power of the Enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that Enemy with his apostate angels”. In blessing the combined water and salt: “Let whatever might menace the safety and peace of those who live here be put to flight by the sprinkling of this water”.
Heavy lifting, indeed!
St. Teresa of Avila in chapter 31 her autobiography explains how she was being tormented by demons. She used holy water against them and wrote:
“From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the Cross, but return; so holy water must have great virtue.”
Demons can tell the difference, even if we can’t
So, why use anything iffy?
BTW… just for your additional instruction, here is a side by side comparison of the older, traditional rite of blessing holy water, and the newer, post-Conciliar rite. I won’t concern myself with matching them up because I have plenty to do today.
Read these and then ask yourself which you would rather use.
Try to find the specific words of blessing in each version.
|ORDER FOR THE BLESSING OF HOLY WATER OUTSIDE MASS
1391 The celebrant begins with these words:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All make the sign of the cross and reply:
1392 The celebrant greets those present in the following or other suitable words, taken mainly from Scripture.
May God, who through water and the Holy Spirit has given us a new birth in Christ, be with you all.
All make the following or some other suitable reply.
And with your spirit.
1393 As circumstances suggest, the celebrant may prepare those present for the blessing in the following or similar words.
The blessing of this water reminds us of Christ, the living water, and of the sacrament of baptism, in which we were born of water and the Holy Spirit. Whenever, therefore, we are sprinkled with this holy water or use it in blessing ourselves on entering the church or at home, we thank God for his priceless gift to us and we ask for his help to keep us faithful to the sacrament we have received in faith.
READING of the WORD of GOD
1394 A reader, another person present, or the celebrant reads a short text of Sacred Scripture.
[VARIOUS POSSIBLE SCRIPTURE READINGS]
1396 After the reading, the celebrant says:
Let us pray.
All pray briefly in silence, then with hands outstretched, the celebrant says the prayer of blessing.
Blessed are you, Lord, all-powerful God,
Lord, holy Father,
1398 Or the celebrant says:
O God, the creator of all things,
R. Bless and purify your Church.
O Christ the Lord, from your pierced side
R. Bless and purify your Church.
O Holy Spirit, giver of life,
R. Bless and purify your Church.
1399 After the prayer of blessing, the celebrant sprinkles those present with holy water, as a suitable song is sung; as circumstances suggest, he may first say the following words.
Let this water call to mind our baptism into Christ,
|RITE FROM THE ROMAN RITUAL
(Priest vests in surplice and purple stole)
P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Exorcism and Blessing of Salt (necessary for Exorcism of Water)
P: O salt, creature of God, I exorcise you by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, by the God who ordered you to be poured into the water by Elisha the prophet, so that its life-giving powers might be restored. I exorcise you so that you may become a means of salvation for believers, that you may bring health of soul and body to all who make use of you, and that you may put to flight and drive away from the places where you are sprinkled; every apparition, villainy, turn of devilish deceit, and every unclean spirit; adjured by him who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.
P: Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly implore you, in your immeasurable kindness and love, to bless + this salt which you created and gave to the use of mankind, so that it may become a source of health for the minds and bodies of all who make use of it. May it rid whatever it touches or sprinkles of all uncleanness, and protect it from every assault of evil spirits. Through Christ our Lord.
Exorcism and Blessing of Water
P: O water, creature of God, I exorcise you in the name of God the Father + Almighty, and in the name of Jesus + Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy + Spirit. I exorcise you so that you may put to flight all the power of the enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that enemy with his apostate angels, through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.
P: Let us pray. O God, for the salvation of mankind, you built your greatest mysteries on this substance, water. In your kindness, hear our prayers and pour down the power of your blessing + into this element, made ready for many kinds of purifications. May this, your creature, become an agent of divine grace in the service of your mysteries, to drive away evil spirits and dispel sickness, so that everything in the homes and other buildings of the faithful that is sprinkled with this water, may be rid of all uncleanness and freed from every harm. Let no breath of infection and no disease-bearing air remain in these places. May the wiles of the lurking enemy prove of no avail. Let whatever might menace the safety and peace of those who live here be put to flight by the sprinkling of this water, so that the health obtained by calling upon your holy name, may be made secure against all attack. Through Christ our Lord.
(Priest pours exorcised salt into the water, in the form of a cross – three times)
P: May a mixture of salt and water now be made, in the name of the Father, + and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. +
P: The Lord be with you.
P: Let us pray. O God, Creator unconquerable, invincible King, Victor ever-glorious, you hold in check the forces bent on dominating us. You overcome the cruelty of the raging enemy, and in your power you beat down the wicked foe. Humbly and fearfully do we pray to you, O Lord, and we ask you to look with favor on this salt and water which you created. Shine on it with the light of your kindness. Sanctify it by the dew of your love, so that, through the invocation of your holy name, wherever this water and salt is sprinkled, it may turn aside every attack of the unclean spirit, and dispel the terrors of the poisonous serpent. And wherever we may be, make the Holy Spirit present to us, who now implore your mercy. Through Christ our Lord.
I, for one, will never use the newer form. Eh-vur.