Turning Water into Something Holy

| 1/10/2008 10:25:00 AM

Tags: Holy water, sacrament, holiness,

Water DropI grew up in an evangelical church where worship was informal and sacraments were almost nonexistent. Visiting more traditional churches, I was taken aback by the reverence people had for baptismal fonts full of water. Some even called it “holy water.” How could something as commonplace as water be holy?

A better question should have been: How could anything as essential to life as water not be holy? Whether you’re being baptized in it, drinking it, or washing your clothes in it, water is more than just a necessity. In a short piece for the Colorado-based literary magazine Ruminate, Jessie van Eerden describes her connection with water, and the droughts she experienced as a child. Despite her mother’s efforts to conserve, the family’s well sometimes ran dry, requiring them to get water from the church:

[Mom] drove us in the truck out to Beatty Church and we filled milk jugs at the hand pump, the same place we got water for a foot-washing or a baptism at Beatty. I remember the ways we used the jugged water that first night, in particulars, for we had to be sparing. In a shallow sink, we washed the eggs just laid by the hens, scrubbing loose the clods of shit and sawdust, and I had my mouth washed out with water and soap when I called it shit on the eggs and not manure, and my sister heated water on the stove to clean our faces with before bed. The water made itself holy because of those particulars

For van Eerden, holiness isn’t the same thing as purity or religiosity. It’s earthier, messier, and based in human realities of need. Unlike turning on a tap, the holiness van Eerden describes is neither easy nor immediate:

And when we hauled the pump’s water again from the truck to the basement, and the gallon jugs hung heavily in both my hands, I learned that water could be as heavy as stones, and that you had to wait, sometimes for days, for the world to be renewed.

—Steve Thorngate

aurore adamkiewicz nd_2
9/4/2008 10:22:07 PM

Yes, Emoto's book is very good, and there are special wells in Ireland, France, and the Hunza water-etc, that carry something healing, special and different. Anyway, finding my way back to Christianity, has been about appreciating the ritual aspects, that I grew up resenting so much-the beauty in blessing the bread and the wine and taking a few moments to pray and be thankful-is now a scientific "necessity"....

aurore adamkiewicz nd_1
1/24/2008 6:51:35 AM

Ha!-Interesting beginning of the article- I was raised Catholic-then went to Evangelical to atheistic and then pagan! Now, gently going back to my Catholic roots-after understanding-that reverence for water, food and life-is not a bad and evil thing-however, like anything, good intentions become bad when mixed with the emotional plague (see Wilhelm Reich's book Murder of Christ and James DeMeo's book Saharasia.) We have scientific proof that "prayer" over water works like in Emoto's book (forementioned)- Call it prayer or scientific formula applied to H2O! http://beyondnaturalmedicine.com

ivan rodriguez_1
1/15/2008 5:22:35 PM

Maybe some of the readers should become familiar of how "especial" water is. They should just browse through Emoto's best selling book: "Hidden Messages in Water" Ivan http://130311.amazonherb.net

john parfitt_3
1/15/2008 4:02:55 AM

My wife and I lived in a Greek village for six years after I retired. All our drinking water had to be brought from four miles down the road. It made me appreciate both water and gasoline.

colleen whalen
1/14/2008 8:49:32 PM

I'm an ex-Catholic. What makes holy water "holy" is a special blessing the priest gives it. Holy water is always kept right at the front of the church entrance - just past the vestibule, so as you enter the church, you are supposed to dip your fingers in the little well of holy water and make the sign of the cross (forehead both shoulders and heart) to bless yourself. I don't believe in the tooth fairy, ufos, santa claus or crop circles - so I quit believing in holy water when I was 11 and left the catholic church. Heck, Mormons believe Jesus lived in North America in 600 BC - so it's not just catholics who have fairy tale thinking.

sheree hobson
1/14/2008 6:30:17 PM

I have often thought about water as one of the miracles we tend to ignore since it is commonplace. Just the fact that I am drinking something I can see through makes the wonder jump in my head again. If someone visited Earth from another planet one day, they might find it fascinating.

gary ashcraft_2
1/14/2008 2:25:11 PM

You caused me to remember growing up in Kansas. My Grandparents farm had a cistern that captured winter snowfall and spring rains, but almost every year by August the supply had been depleted and we had to start hauling from town for three or four months. We take so many things for granted today in America with or modern ease and covenience. Thank you for reminding me of the little Holy and Sacred things of every day life.

1/14/2008 1:41:49 PM

And...how do you make holy water? You boil the hell out of it!