The Symbolism of Water

The Symbolism of Water

downloadOne of the first things a visitor will notice upon entrance into our church are the holy water fonts at both doors. A strange thing happens with that water: people dip their fingers in it and then bless themselves by making the sign of the cross over themselves. What is the deal with water?

Water is one of the essential symbols of Christian faith. It always has been. In fact, water is one of the key biblical symbols for both the Jews and the Christians.

Beginning in Genesis the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at creation. From that point on water is associated with the activity of the Holy Spirit. From Abraham’s wells in an arid land (symbolizing the Spirit’s favor); to the Rock in the desert that flowed with water when Moses struck it (symbolizing the providence of God); to the baptism of the Israelites in the waters of the Red Sea (symbolizing the rebirth of the nation of Israel); to John’s baptism of Christ in the Jordan; to the 3,000 baptisms at Pentecost; when the Spirit blows the waters flow.

So it is customary for churches to use water to celebrate and call attention to the work of the Holy Ghost. Some churches have fountains, some depict water in the windows or even carved into the moulding. Seashells and raindrops remind us of the waters of the Spirit. Holy Water dispensers and flooded baptismal founts call us to contemplate and seek the Spirit.

Another way that Churches use water to call upon the Spirit is by sprinkling the congregation with holy water (water blessed by a priest.) A Priest or bishop will often carry a special device called an Aspergillum which, when shaken, dispenses drops of water over the faithful. This water blesses us with the remembrance of the grace we received from the Holy Spirit at baptism.

It is customary to sprinkle the congregation with holy water at certain times of the year, such as Easter, Pentecost, Baptism Sundays, and on the First Sunday after the Epiphany which is the day the Church celebrates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan river.

So whenever you see water in window art, paintings, fonts or Aspergillums remember who it symbolizes: the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life.

 

 

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