Coming into the Catholic Church, you will observe that at the entrance of the church there’s a small vessel (called font) which contains water and everyone entering the church, dips his hands inside the water and make sign of the cross. When a Priest wants to start the mass, he at times sprinkles water on the congregations(known as Aspersions) using a brush called Aspergill or Aspergillum before he resumes and lastly when he wants to bless a sacramental, we see him sprinkle water on it. The water the Priest sprinkles is called Holy water.
These practice has existed in the Catholic Church for many centuries and the use of water for religious purposes can be traced back to the scriptures.
We have been observing the practice of using holy water, but many of us don’t know the reason why we use it. These article contains everything you need to know about the Holy water and why Catholics use it.
Holy water is a water that has been blessed by a Priest or any member of the Clergy.
Water has always been symbol of life and purity, in the scriptures it’s used for religious ritual e.g cleansen and purification. It is used for protection against evil and diseases.
History of the use of holy water
The use of holy water can be traced back to the old Testament , Numbers 5:17 “He shall pour some holy water into a clay bowl and take some of the earth that is on the floor of the Tent of the LORD’s presence and put it in the water.”
In 2Kings 5:1-14 Tells us about An Aramean general called Naaman who was infected with leprosy, but immediately he obeyed Prophet and bath 7times in Jordan river, he was healed.
In the Middle Ages holy water was considered so powerful that the fonts(vessel for keeping holy water) has a lock on the cover, to prevent theft of the water for magical purposes and witch craft .
Why do we use holy water
1. When we enter the church , dips our hands in the holy water and makes sign of the cross, it reminds us of our baptism, when the priest poured the holy water on our head with the invocation of the Holy Trinity thereby cleansing us from original sins. In making the sign of the cross with the holy water, we renew our baptismal promises of rejecting the devil and all his works and profess our faith in the Lord.
2. We use it as a sign of repentance from sin and reconciliation with God. As we touch the holy water and make sign of the cross we call in mind our sins and ask God to wash away our sins just as the psalmist said in Psalm 51 ” Wipe away my sins, wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sins. “. John the Baptist used the water in the river Jordan to baptised new converts thereby cleansing them from their sins.
3. We use it to chase away evil spirits and protecting against illness and diseases. As a Priest blesses the water he recites this prayer “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 us 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.”.
The holy water is so powerful that it repels the devil. St Teresa of Avila said “I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like Holy water.”
St Teresa narrated a story of how she was visited by the devil and how she used it to repel the devil.
“I was once in an oratory(place of prayer) , and Satan appeared to me in an dreadful form at my left side. As he spoke to me, I looked mostly at his mouth– which was very frightening. It seemed that a great flame of fire , all bright without shadow, came out from his body. He told me in a formidable way that I had really freed myself from his hands but that he would catch me with them again. I was struck with great fear and blessed myself as best I could; he disappeared, but returned right away. This happened to me twice. I didn’t know what to do. There was some Holy Water there, and I threw it in that direction; he never returned again. …I often experience that there is nothing the devils flee from more– without returning– than holy water”
How to properly dispose holy water
Holy water is not allowed to be disposed in sewer or drain as ordinary water, it’s is disposed by connecting a basin (sacrarium) into the ground so when poured into the basin, the ground absorbs the water. The holy water never losses it’s spiritual powers.
When do Catholics bless the holy water.
We bless the water on the Easter vigil, to be used for the baptism of those being received into Catholic Church that night. In the past the holy water is kept to be used through out the year, but now a fresh water can be used once it’s blessed. It can be kept at the fonts to be used by the congregation and for baptism. Plain water can be blessed by the Priest and be used by the faithful in their private areas of life.
Formula for blessing the holy water
During the liturgy there’s 3 formulas a priest can use to bless the holy water .
V. Blessed are you, Lord, all-powerful God, who in Christ, the living water of salvation, blessed and transformed us. Grant that when we are sprinkled with this water or make use of it, we will be refreshed inwardly by the power of the Holy Spirit and continue to walk in the new life we received at Baptism. We ask this though Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
V. Lord, holy Father, look with kindness on your children redeemed by your Son and born to a new life by water and the Holy Spirit. Grant that those who are sprinkled with this water may be renewed in body and spirit and may make a pure offering of their service to you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
V. O God, the Creator of all things, by water and the Holy Spirit you have given the universe its beauty and fashioned us in your own image. R. Bless and purify your Church. V. O Christ the Lord, from your pierced side you gave us your sacraments as fountains of salvation. R. Bless and purify your Church. V. Priest: O Holy Spirit, giver of life, from the baptismal font of the Church you have formed us into a new creation in the waters of rebirth. R. Bless and purify your Church.