From a reader…
To prevent the potential spread of coronavirus, my parish in Tokyo has temporarily discontinued the use of Holy Water upon entrance to the chapel. This has me thinking about the various types of Holy Water. Can you explain the difference between ordinary Holy Water, Epiphany Water, Easter Water, Old Rite Water and their relative merits/uses/capabilities?
Tokyo! It was about 1 year ago that I was there and celebrated the TLM for a wonderful group of people. I met the late Fr. Augustin Toship Ikeda at that time. Prayers for him.
Holy waters! A great topic.
Here are a few notes about different blessed waters we Catholics use and enjoy. This is not meant to be exhaustive. 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, and the saltiness of the water helps retard algae growth. The prayers for blessing the salt include the biblical image of Eliseus (Elisha) healing the barrenness of the land and water of Jericho with salt, which is counter-intuitive. God can do all things through his chosen instruments.
The blessing for the water and salt tell us what the Church is doing and what we should do with it:
May this creature of yours, when 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
wherever it is sprinkled and your holy name is invoked, every assault of the unclean spirit may be baffled, and all dread of the serpent’s venom be cast out.
You see, this is a powerful spiritual tool against the enemy.
Remember that this world has its “prince”, the Enemy, the Devil. By blessings and consecrations by the priest material things are torn away from the prince and given over to the King, Christ. We use these sacramental against the Enemy for the sake of body and soul, which are interconnected in this life.
Easter Water is blessed at Easter and at Pentecost. As you might surmise it is used for baptisms. 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. We use Baptismal Water for much the same reason as regular Holy Water. The bonus is the lovely fragrance of the Chrism in the water.
There is a blessing of a rare water used for the reconciliation of a church building, 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. This water is also used in the rite of “reconciliation” of a church. A church is a sacred place, normally consecrated. If something bad happens in the building, say the priest is attacked during Mass or someone breaks in and does a terrible thing inside, then the building should be “reconciled” so that it can be used again for sacred purposes. We don’t just ignore evil acts, because demons attach through evil acts. Hence, we exorcise things and people before we bless or baptize. Gregorian Water, with its use of ash, is a cleansing water. Ash is an element of ancient soap, after all. The blessing of Gregorian Water is in the Pontificale Romanum, used by bishops only. The rite for Gregorian Water is particular. Even the exorcism and blessing of salt is unlike that of the normal Holy Water. It talks about the reason for its use, the expulsion of demons and temptations from demons. Similarly, the exorcism of the water describes how it is to be used to drive demons from the even the shadowy places of the church and around the altar. He blesses ashes without exorcising them, with the image of ourselves confessing our faults. The wine is blessed invoking the image of Cana. I’ve never seen this rite. I’d sure like to. I hope it will be for the consecration of a church, rather than for its reconciliation!
There is also a blessing of water at Epiphany which involves the basic salt and water combination of Holy Water. This make Epiphany Water. The rite is amazing. I refer you to my post HERE. However, there is a nice rite which can be performed in the context of, say, Vespers which involves solemn exorcisms of the place and singing psalms, the Litany and Te Deum. This water would be used to bless houses, along with the blessed chalk, of course. It is an amazing rite. This year’s photos HERE.
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! Especially against the Enemy of our soul.
The Devil really hates this stuff.
Newer rite v. traditional rite.
I have never, in almost 30 years as a priest, even once use the post-Conciliar Book of Blessings to bless anything, much less Holy Water.
As a matter of fact, I don’t think that the prayers in that book intend to bless anything. There is one, I think, which is the traditional prayer for blessing a rosary, tucked in with other options that might bless a person who might use a Rosary. The book’s preface attempts to change the Church’s theology about blessings. There are, to be quick, two kinds of blessings, invocative, by which we call down God’s blessing on a person or animal, and constitutive, which ask God to make a thing or place a blessed thing or place with an enduring blessing. The new book eliminates that distinction. Hence, I will never, ever, EH-VUR, use the Book of Blessings, which I consider to be a travesty that should never have been promulgated.
I use the older, traditional Rituale Romanum. I always have and I always will. The rite tells you what it is doing. There are the important exorcisms of the elements of the Holy Water (salt, water – in the case of Easter water the oils are consecrated by a bishop). The prayers say what is going on, the Church’s intention in blessing regular Holy Water.
“God’s creature, salt, I cast out the demon from you…”
“Almighty everlasting God, we humbly appeal to your mercy and goodness to graciously bless + this creature, salt…”
“God’s creature, water, I cast out the demon from you…”
“… pour forth your blessing + on this element now being prepared with various purifying rites.”
“… we beg you, Lord, to regard with favor this creature thing of salt and water, to let the light of your kindness shine upon it, and to hallow it with the dew of your mercy; so that…”
Our rites should describe what we want them to do. This is also important because
WE ARE OUR RITES.
Use Holy Water. Sprinkle it around your dwelling. Bless yourself with it.