From the Pastor
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A
July 16, 2017
We take a break from our saintly reflections to ponder two of the three options for blessing water. [Next year we’ll review the third option, which is reserved for Eastertime.] Why bless water? We bless ‘ordinary’ things like water, sites, images, rooms, etc., to ‘set them aside’ for a ‘holy’ purpose. Last week we looked at the Introduction and Option A for the Blessing of Water; today we consider Option B.
The Blessing of Water – Option B
Almighty Lord and God, who are the source
and origin of all life, whether of body or soul,
we ask you to + bless this water, which we
use in confidence to implore forgiveness
for our sins and to obtain
the protection of your grace against
all illness and every snare of the enemy.
Grant, O Lord, in your mercy, that living waters may always spring up for our salvation,
and so may we approach you with a pure heart
and avoid all danger to body and soul.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Asperges Me.” ‘Vintage’ Catholics and all who attend the Tridentine Mass [commonly called the old Latin Mass] may recall the words “Asperges me” or “Cleanse me” begin the Penitential Act: “Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” [Psalm 51:9]
What is hyssop? It’s a small bush whose many woody twigs make a natural sprinkler. Hyssop was prescribed by the Law of Moses as an instrument for sprinkling sacrificial blood or purified water for cleansing. [C.f. Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4; Numbers 19:18] Although it is a flimsy, short branch, one Gospel specifies that it was used during our Lord’s crucifixion: “So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to [Jesus’] mouth.” [John 19:29]
Since this is physically impossible, what does it mean?
Scripture scholars say Saint John was teaching a highly significant spiritual lesson: that by Christ’s self-sacrifice – by the blood and water that flowed from His side as He hung upon the Cross – we who eat His Body and drink His Blood – and are sprinkled with holy water – are saved!
Of course, our Lord’s “once for all” [Hebrews 10:10]
Sacrifice does not mean we can sit back and relax as if the battle is over! While the war has been won: Christ has conquered sin and death – each person must continually do battle against the forces of evil, the enticements of temptation, and every diversion, distraction, and detour the devil devises to derail us. It is not enough to say “Jesus is Lord … so I’m saved!”
We must do our part by using God’s countless graces. That’s why the Church offers us the Sacraments, which are the main ways we live out our new life in Christ – and the many sacramentals that help us keep God and our Catholic faith ‘front and center’ in our life.
With what sacramentals have you surrounded yourself? A crucifix or cross? A statue or icon? An outside shrine or religious symbol? A prayer table or sacred spot? A holy card or medal in your car? A small holy water container in your home? Every Catholic Church has a holy water ‘font’ from which you can fill up your own container to bring home. Religious good stores sell simple holy water containers … or just use a cleaned out, empty spice jar. Since we are hit from every side by sights and sounds of what can lead us into sin … give God a fighting chance to help you by having reminders of our Catholic faith everywhere you go.
Finally, some technical terms and customs concerning the use of holy water. There are many acceptable ways to carry and sprinkle holy water. What some call a ‘holy water bucket’
is technically an aspersorium
[ass-per-SOAR-e-um] – but ask any Altar Server or most Sacristans for an aspersorium
… and you’ll be left … high and dry; ‘holy water bucket’
works better! We sprinkle holy water with an aspergillum
[ass-per-JILL-e-um] which has many forms. It may be a metal, perforated ball at the end of a short handle; a broom-like stick that gives a good soaking; or a branch from a tree or bush, like hyssop – which I personally prefer as it better symbolizes ‘living waters.’ It is also a proper pious practice to use water from Lourdes, the Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, or another sacred site. Springs of water, bless the Lord!
In His holy Name,
Rev. Thomas J. Serafin, KHS