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Water is the softest and weakest essence in the world, but it is invincible in overcoming hard and strong, and there is no equal in the world.


Water in the Bible

Water is one of the oldest religious symbols. In the Holy Scripture it occupies a key place. Water is called unformed matter at the very beginning of the world creation: after God “in the beginning” created the heavens and the earth, “the Spirit of God moved over water.” According to the biblical explanation of the world creation the first living beings (reptiles and fish) appeared from water. In the human life, created “out of the earth dust”, water also plays a very important role.

Man is a part of this world. If the soul belongs to heaven, spiritual world, then the body belongs wholly to material world, this is a world, where water is very important and we can see it wherever life of any kinds can be found. Therefore, the first aspect of the religious symbolism of water – is the beginning that inspires with life.

But water can become a severe power, a symbol of destruction and death. The mysterious black depth of water is capable of killing and destroying, wiping cities and civilizations off the face of the earth, becoming an image of irrational and uncontrollable element. The first human world, as the Bible first book says, perished in the waters of flood. God chose such a method to destroy the world in which evil became absolutely prevail over good. Is it not a sign that when a person lives in evil, the very world created by God in order to be in harmony with human, rebels against his “master”? Christians believe that the fall form Grace of the first people damaged not only the man himself, but also brought an imbalance in the whole universe: the image of people’s relations with each other and with the world became different, not as God intended. And now water, that was erstwhile the beginning of life, becomes an power that wracks death.

But once water became destructive, it got another meaning as a symbol: it purifies. The flood waters at the command of God cleared the world of the total dominion of sin. Cleanliness, rebirth and renewal is the third aspect of water symbolism in biblical culture. Water washes out the dirt, cleanses the body, clothing and home. This water symbol based on its most natural properties runs through the entire Bible.

Great blessing of water

Water as the beginning of life, as a symbol of judgment and death, as a means of purification – these three basic senses of water as a religious symbol are associated with the three main emphases of the Christian faith: creation, fall from grace, redemption. The whole world, water as a part of it, man as its “crown” – they were created by God as fundamentally good and “virtuous” in their essence. But the same substance, “good” at the root, served as an instrument for the fall of man, which led him to slavery of sin and death. But in Christ – the incarnate God – and with His power, substance can again become a symbol of God’s presence and His glory, become the substance of the mystery that connects man with God.

Every time christening occurs, the so-called great blessing of water happens. It also happens on the eve of Baptism of our Lord Feast. The prayers during this rite are a celebration of praise and thanksgiving, addressed to God on behalf of the whole world. Consideration of the blessing of water as a “sacralization” of a certain amount of substance is too narrow. The said prayers show that intention of authors who wrote these words many centuries ago was to make water again capable of becoming phenomenon and presence of the power and love of God in this fallen, but redeemed world.

The thanksgiving words of the great water blessing prayer make us attestors of creation and return us to the very origins of life. And a person able to give thanks becomes free in relation to both God and the world.

“Show this water as water of renewal, water of blessing, the cleaning of flesh and spirit, the weakening of bonds, the forgiveness of sins, the enlightenment of souls, the bath of eternal life, the renewal of the spirit, the gift of adoption, the clothing of incorruption, the source of life …”, the priest prays. Any sanctification performed by the Church is never visible and “physical” miracle, a kind of transformation that can be “touched” and proven. Whether it is possible to conduct any laboratory analyzes and studies to “prove” some changes in the substance, or not – it should not worry a believer. One can even say that the expectation or searching for such “changes” were often considered by the Church as blasphemy and sin. After all, Christ did not come to replace the “natural matter” with some “supernatural”, or “sanctified.” The Son of God incarnated in order to open the way for us to unite with God. And He returns substance to its original property – to serve as a means of such unity. Thus, the water of christening – the water of great blessing – is holy, that is, it becomes the place of the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Small water blessing

In addition to the rite of the great water blessing, which is very rare (the water remained after the sacrament of baptism, is not used further), church tradition has the “small water blessing”, which is often used in many churches, sometimes even every Sunday. This rite is based on a different idea of ​​blessing. If the above mentioned great blessing of water blessing is blessing primarily and first of all through prayer itself, in a small water blessing a key role is played by a submerged object – the cross as an image of the Cross of Christ. And the substance from which this cross is made, does not matter: it is important that this cross is a shrine as a symbol of the victory of Jesus Christ over death.

Therefore, Church tradition knows two ways of blessing: directly through prayer and through contact with something that has already been blessed.

Blessing through contact is also applied to baptismal water. Priests often advise to add some holy water to a pot of drinking water to bless it. Water blessed in this way, is used by believers along with the first water, that was a “source” of blessing.

In ancient times, water could be blessed, not only by immersing a cross in it or by adding holy water to it. There is a rite of “washing of the relics” – in fact, the same rite of small water blessing, but a submerged item is not a cross, but part of the relics of the holy saint. In the XVII century, this rite was performed on the Great Friday before Easter in the Moscow Kremlin, and then gradually it was superseded by the usual method of small water blessing.

Why is this necessary?

Blessing of water, as well as any sacred action, is not self-contained. Thus, bread and wine are blessed at the Liturgy in order to become a means of true unity with God. And water is not blessed in order to be kept in the pantry for years (though it does not usually spoil when stored for many years: there was a case of absolutely fresh holy baptismal water, which had been stood on the shelf for sixteen years!) but to be a symbol of remittal, deliverance, salvation, sanctification of soul and body.  And, as the wonderful theologian of the twentieth century, Father Alexander Schmemann wrote, “to be what all matter is intended to be: the way to the ultimate goal – deification of man, learning of God and unity with Him. ”

At all times and in different parts of the globe, people endowed water with a multitude of sacred meanings. Water dissolves, destroys, cleans, flushes and repairs. Water is life, and at the same time – a symbol of destruction and death. It is an image of irrational and uncontrollable, but also purity, renewal and protection. It is not surprising that in almost all religious rituals of the world, water has the most important role. More precisely – one of the two main roles: “sacred water” and “holy water.”

Sacred waters

Since extreme antiquity people have deified water objects near which they spend their life. Underground springs, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, seas and, of course, the oceans were personalized in more or less formidable gods and goddesses, who needed to be coaxed.

In ancient Egypt, the flooding of the Nile was called the arrival of Hapi, the god of Upper and Lower Nile, which gives abundance. The priests counted with great accuracy the day of water arrival, and on the eve of the appointed date people crowded on the embankment, waiting for the flooding. The people enthusiastically welcomed arriving water that were coming from the south, blurred and went to the north. On the day of the Great Nile flooding, the Egyptians offered sacrifices to the god Hapi. The papyrus scrolls with the enumeration of the gifts written on them were thrown into the river.

In ancient Greece Poseidon – the god of the seas – was considered one of the supreme gods. In his honor, people built temples and arranged lavish religious processions. But, the cult of worship of rivers was also goes around. For example, the ancient Greeks could cross the river only after offering sacrifices. Otherwise, it was considered insulting for the god of the river. And travelers did not cross even a shallow river or stream, without saying prayer and washing their hands in their waters.

The ancient Romans also considered springs and rivers as gods or their habitation. In the cult of water, they praised energy that rushes water from darkness to white light submitting to unknown force. Therefore, when on October 13 an annual fountain’s festival was celebrated in Ancient Rome, dedicated to the main god of sources Font, the dwellers honored equally natural springs, city fountains, wells, water pipes, and street stand-pipes. After all, they also were habitation of gods!

Sacred waters have one more hypostasis – the primal substance, the great-substance, from which all things are born, and where it must return. So, in India even in recent times, baby was not fed with milk during the first days, but was fed with honey water. They believe that baby still belongs to the water element. By the way, the tradition of throwing coins into a pond to return is nothing more than a modern echo of the millennial tradition of deification of waters.

Holy water

Another role of water in religious rites is connected with the idea of symbolically purifying substance. In this case, the water environment becomes a means of bringing believers to sacred shrines. Sacred ablutions, that symbolized the washing of the soul from sins, were prescribed by Moses, Zoroaster and Muhammad.

One of the main rituals of Judaism is the ritual of ablution. Rabbis instruct believers to dive into the mikvah on the eve of the Sabbath and other religious holidays. Mikvah is a pool for ritual purification. According to the same law, only “living” water – not from the tap, but from a natural source – is capable to bring spiritual purification.

Apparently, a ritual of christening in Christianity descended from the ablutions adopted in the Old Testament. The word “christening” is the Slavic equivalent of the Greek βάπτισμα (“immersion in water”). In the Holy Scriptures, it is firstly appeared in connection with the name of John the Baptist. The Jews, who came to him, plunged into the waters of the Jordan River, in order to meet the Messiah in the purity of the soul, the coming of whom John preached. Then, the concept of christening was expanded. When plugging into the holy waters with the name of Christ, man did not just “washed off” his sins. He symbolically died for the old life and reborn to the new one.

The use of specially blessing water in Christianity dates back to the 2nd century AD. e. It was used for sprinkling during the Sunday Liturgy, and later – almost in all the ceremonies of sanctification.

In Orthodoxy, the most famous among the water rituals is the Great Water blessing. Unlike than the small water blessing that can take place in church at any time, the Great Water blessing is held once a year, on January 18, according to a new style, on the eve of the Orthodox holiday of Christening.

With the blessing of the church pastor, parishioners arranged on the nearest pond so called “Jordan” – an ice-hole in the form of cross. The cross that is cut from ice is placed next to the ice-hole. Sometimes it is replaced with a wooden one. Then there is a “course to Jordan” – a solemn procession for the water blessing. The priest, performing the rite, three times immerses the cross in the water with prayers and singing. Doing this he invokes God’s blessing on the water. After the blessing of water, many believers immerse in the ice-hole, and those who do not dare, they try at least to wash.

Water in the Christian religion

General information

The Biblical Encyclopedia – Water (Gen. I, 6, IX, 10, etc.). – How much Israelis in the ancient times valued water, this necessary gift for the life and well-being of a person, the Holy Scripture testifies in many places. Placing water between the very first things necessary for man, Jesus the son of Sirach, says: the main need for life is water and bread, and clothing and a house that covers nakedness (Sir XXIX, 24). Alive, fresh, and spring water often seems an image of God’s all-renewing blessing (Isaiah XII, 3). Just as in the ceremonial ablutions of the Old Testament, water served as an image of moral purification of Jews, so christening in the New Testament serves as an image of mysterious purification from sin and of spiritual rebirth into a new, blessed life (John III, 5, Eph. V, 26, etc.). So necessary and wholesome water in hot countries, sometimes becomes a dangerous and destructive element during heavy and torrential rains, when it falls from mountainous heights and covers everything with itself, and overflowing rivers and springs protrude from the banks and destroy and take away everything (Psalm XVII , 17, Jer. XLVII, 2, Isaiah XLIII, 2 and others). Due to this fact, the expression “to be in the depths of waters” means suffering; indignant sea means anxiety of those who wicked, etc. As water refreshes and revitalizes the thirsting traveler, so our salvation is a pure source of living water.

Holy Water

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The holy water (Greek Bgibumt – shrine) is the water blessed in a church. The use of holy water in Christianity goes back to the second century. The tradition of its use is connected both with the baptism of Christ in the waters of the Jordan River, and with the Old Testament liturgical traditions (the priest takes holy water in an earthen vessel – Num. 5:17).

The beginning of the world is water, and the beginning of the Gospel is the Jordan. Sensual light shone because of water, for the Spirit of God rushed above the water and commanded light to shine out of the darkness. From the Jordan, the light of the Holy Gospel shone, for, as the holy evangelist writes, “from that time,” that is, from the time of the Christening, Jesus began to preach and say: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mt.4: 17)

– Cyril of Jerusalem

Blessing of water

An obligatory requirement for holy water is its blessing by a priest or bishop.

Water in the Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Church distinguishes two rites of water blessing:

Great blessing is performed twice a year: on the day of the Christening feast (Epiphany) (was not performed by the Russian church until the 12th century, this custom appeared after the distribution of the Jerusalem liturgical statute and was repeatedly criticized and abolished, especially in the 17th century [17]), and on the eve of the Epiphany Eve. In this case, the same rite is used. On the very day of Epiphany, the blessing of water can be performed with a solemn procession to a reservoir known as the “course on the Jordan”. The water blessed during the rite of great blessing is called the Great Agiosma.

Small blessing is performed at prayer services with water blessing throughout the year. The water blessing prayers are performed both according to the liturgical instructions (obligatory small blessing is performed on the day of the Genesis of the Living Cross of the Lord and on the day of the Prelocation) and at request of believers.

The rite of the great water blessing is more solemn in comparison with the small and includes more chants and readings (there are also paremias besides the Gospel and the Apostle). Both for great and for small blessing, it is obligatory for the priest to read the prayer for water blessing and to immerse the cross in the cup with water (during the great blessing it is threefold and is complemented by blessing of water by the hand of a priest).

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