I stood in the rain this afternoon, with twenty or thirty of the faithful as we blessed the waters of the Clinch River at Melton Hill Marina. It’s the same place that is pictured in the snow with the blessing of the waters on a few blogs down.
Today the water was everywhere. In the lake, coming down from the sky, gradually soaking into us.
There was a certain glory in chanting (more like shouting) “Great, O Lord, are Thy works, and there is no word to proclaim your wonders!”
I am always struck during the service of the Blessing of the Waters – particularly when we’re outdoors – that the redemption of the world extends to the created order as well as to ourselves. It’s not just about us. Nor is it about what many would call “the environment.” Though a Christian should care for the environment – the one we live in is as subject to death and decay as we are – and was made so on account of us – according to the 8th chapter of Romans.
The “dragons” of the Waters to be crushed bear a likeness to the demons of hell defeated at Pascha. They are the demons of decay and death that work around us always seeking to enthrone mortality as the Lord of all.
Ours is not a “culture of death,” but a culture that fears death. It is held at bay by almost any means – we paint the faces of the living – just as we paint the faces of the dead – in both cases trying to paint a soul where one does not seem to be.
I believe it was St. Gregory of Nyssa (and I have no idea of the citation) who once said that the body is in the soul rather than the soul in the body. I’ve meditated on this many times and realized that there is a “life” through which we see one another (“soul” and “life” frequently have the same meaning in the New Testament). A soul that is truly united with Christ is radiant and the face we see “through” it bears this same radiance, and a beauty that cannot be marred.
That this radiance departs at death should not be surprising, nor should our culture’s vain efforts to paint it back. But we also attempt to place a beauty on the soul that we have not yet made our own. At best it can only resemble. Love, mercy, and kindness, are the acts that make our souls to shine with the radiance of God. And a person who seeks to paint love, mercy and kindness where they do not naturally belong is, in fact, deceptive. And so we deceive ourselves.
Nature itself, we are told, groans for the proper radiance of God.
To stand by a lake and shout the word of God, to call His name over the waters, is like standing in the midst of Hades and shouting, “Ally, ally, in come free!” (I know there are hundreds of innovations of that child’s call that ends the game of hide and seek – this was our Southern variant). But there is a word of hope being called out to creation that shares in our bondage. This lake, these trees, these sluggish winter fish, all will be partakers of the glorious liberty of the sons of God. This is God’s promise and it is a joy to stand outside and shout it.
The skies returned the favor by continuing to pour down their liquid blessing. It was as if God Himself had taken up the aspergillium and was sprinkling the earth with the dew of His blessing.
We returned home very wet, blessed, and renewed in the grace of God.
Dragons crushed, water blessed, good Theophany!