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The holy water in the Catholic Church

24 Oct 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Doctrines

The Holy-WaterThe holy water, like the other religious articles, is often used in the Catholic Church, in fact, it is greatly associated with the Catholic Church even though it is gradually seen these days in some other Christian denominations. Exactly when they started it, how they bless it and why they use it is something I cannot confidently tell you, but in the Catholic Church, we have reasons.

By the way, the holy water is not from heaven, it is the ordinary water you and I know but blessed by God through the hands of an ordained priest. This reminds me of the miracle the prophet Elisha worked in a certain city, where he purified a killer spring of water by throwing salt into it (2Kg. 2:19-22). In the Catholic Church, water and salt are blessed separately and then mixed to become what we call holy water. They are blessed thus:

Lord God almighty,
creator of all life,
of body and soul,
we ask you to bless + this water:
as we use it in faith
forgive our sins
and save s from all illness
and the power of evil.

Lord, in your mercy
give us living water,
always springing up as a fountain of salvation:
free us, body and soul, from every danger,
and admit us to your presence
in purity of heart.

Almighty God,
we ask you to bless + this salt
as once you blessed the salt scattered over the water
by the prophet Elisha.
Wherever this salt and water are sprinkled,
drive away the power of evil,
and protect us always
by the presence of your Holy Spirit.

By the time the water and the salt are blessed and mixed, we have the holy water and it is used in our liturgical celebrations, in our homes, offices, and wherever we wish to use it in faith.

You may be wondering why we use the holy water in the Catholic Church. We use it for at least three reasons, the first is for purification and blessing. The Book of Leviticus prescribed various ritual purifications using water to remove the “uncleanness” associated, for instance, with coming into contact with a dead body, menstruation, childbirth, or leprosy (cf. Leviticus 12-15). A person also purified himself with water before entering the Temple precincts, offering prayer and sacrifice, and eating. For this reason, in the Courtyard of the Priests (the area before the actual Temple building) was the Laver, an immense bronze basin filled with water. Here the priests purified their hands and feet before offering sacrifices at the nearby altar, bathed before entering the Temple itself, and also drew water for other purifications prescribed in Jewish rituals. In our parishes like the Temples of old, we have water fount at the entrances. We touch this water as a sign of purification or repentance and then bless ourselves with the sign of the cross before stepping into the Church.

Secondly, we use it for protection. As you would observe in the blessing of the salt the priest prayed, saying; wherever this salt and water are sprinkled, drive away the power of evil, and protect us always by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The water is not used as an amulet, but in faith in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly, it reminds us of our baptismal consecration. By water and the Holy Spirit, we are reborn through Jesus Christ. In the waters of baptism, we are washed from the stain of original sin through the power of God and made members of the Church. The holy water reminds us of our baptism in Christ and the promises we made to be committed to God alone.

The Catholic Church is indeed blessed!