Blessing the Waters

Members of the Orthodox Church of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, gather at Furnace Dam Park on S. 10th Street in Emmaus to bless the waters during the 2010 Theophany season. (The building in the background is one of the main sites of the Rodale Institute.)

5 comments:

  1. Good evening everybody 🙂

    Please excuse an ignorant protestant, but can someone explain the meaning of this ceremony to me? I know so very little about the orthodox faith.

  2. Here’s a helpful explanation from Fr. Thomas Hopko:

    About the Blessing of Water

    Sometimes people think that the blessing of water and the practice of drinking it and sprinkling it over everyone and everything is a “paganism” which has falsely entered the Christian Church. We know, however, that this ritual was practiced by the People of God in the Old Testament, and that in the Christian Church it has a very special and important significance.

    It is the faith of Christians that since the Son of God has taken human flesh and has been immersed in the streams of the Jordan, all matter is sanctified and made pure in him, purged of its death-dealing qualities inherited from the devil and the wickedness of men. In the Lord’s epiphany all creation becomes good again, indeed “very good,” the way that God himself made it and proclaimed it to be in the beginning when “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2) and when the “Breath of Life” was breathing in man and in everything that God made (Genesis 1:30; 2:7).

    The world and everything in it is indeed “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and when it becomes polluted, corrupted and dead, God saves it once more by effecting the “new creation” in Christ, his divine Son and our Lord by the grace of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 6:15) This is what is celebrated on Epiphany [traditional name: Theophany], particularly in the Great Blessing of Water. The consecration of the waters on this feast places the entire world – through its “prime element” of water – in the perspective of the cosmic creation, sanctification, and glorification of the Kingdom of God in Christ and the Spirit. It tells us that man and the world were indeed created and saved in order to be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19), the “fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22). It tells us that Christ, in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” is and shall be truly “all, and in all” (Colossians 2:9, 3:11). It tells us as well that the “new heavens and the new earth” which God has promised through his prophets and apostles (Isaiah 66:22; II Peter 3:l3, Revelation 21:1) are truly “with us” already now in the mystery of Christ and his Church.

    Thus, the sanctification and sprinkling of the Epiphany water is no pagan ritual. It is the expression of the most central fact of the Christian vision of man, his life and his world. It is the liturgical testimony that the vocation and destiny of creation is to be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3: l 9).

    Fr. Thomas Hopko, Worship, vol. 2 of The Orthodox Faith (Syosset,: The Orthodox Church in America, 1972), p. 126-127.

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