Friday, May 23, 2008

The concept behind Holy Water

Having been a Protestant my whole life, my only real experience with Holy Water has been its use in vampire movies as a prop to fight the monsters. But I knew it was widely used by Cathoics and Eastern Orthodox Christians in their rites. I could see no biblical support for such a practice, so I was curious to see how it is justified. Wikipedia had some interesting answers.

Biblical References:

In the Old Testament, holy water is mentioned in Numbers 5:17, with regard to the preparation of the Bitter Water in the rite of the Jealousy Ordeal. Numbers 5:17 actually uses the phrase "holy water".
Other verses they may be used as reference for understanding the sacrament (not so much its effects) are Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 8:6; Exodus 30:17; Numbers 5:17; Numbers 8:5-7; 1 Kings 7:38-39; John 9:6-7; John 13:4-10; John 19:34
In John 9:6-7 we see Jesus using clay, spit, and the water of the "pool of Siloam" to heal a man. In John 13:4-10 Jesus washes the feet of the Apostles and seems to imply that the water cleanses. This event occurs right before the Last Supper, where Catholics believe that Jesus established the Eucharist and the Priesthood, thus John may be alluding to the rites described in the Old Testament (such as in Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 29:4, and Numbers 5:17)

Another View:

The use of holy water is based on the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, and the Orthodox interpretation of this event. In their view, John's baptism was a baptism of repentance, and the people came to have their sins washed away by the water. Since Jesus had no sin, but was God incarnate, his baptism had the effect not of washing away Jesus' sins, but of blessing the water, making it holy—and with it all of creation, so that it may be used fully for its original created purpose to be an instrument of life.
A very interesting view, to be certain. I still do not think there is any real Biblcal mandate for "Holy" water in Christian practice, but now at least it makes more sense to me. And I will admit I find the second quoted view to be quiet poetic and beautiful.

1 comment:

shadwomom1 said...

I agree that Jesus cleansing the water, and thereby all creation, is a lovely interpretation. But if he cleansed all creation, why is there a need for specially blessed holy water?

Of course, I am not a Roman Catholic or Orthodox, either.