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Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Grand Junction, Colorado

Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (AD 73)
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (AD 1922)
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver (AD 1979)

METROPOLIS OF DENVER

Monthly Blessing of Water, or the “Holy Water Service”

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As we know, water is essential for life. God has covered most of the earth (71%) in water, and He has created man to be physically comprised mostly of water (60%).

Water is a great and essential gift from God, and the fundamental nature of water is to give, sustain, and nurture life.

But the true nature of water is found in its relationship to the salvation of man and of the world. Water is blessed to be used as the means through which a person is “born again” in the Sacrament of Baptism. Water is blessed to be used for the sanctification of people, animals, homes, business, and any useful object.

During the blessing of water – either at the Annual Feast of Theophany or at any other “Agiasmó” (“Blessing”) Service, a wonderful miracle is manifest.

God the Holy Spirit, is invoked by the Bishop or his Presbyter (Priest) to descend upon the water, and change its natural properties. It again becomes incorrupt, remaining transformed and fresh for a very long time. Holy Water receives the grace of the Holy Spirit to heal illnesses, to drive away demons, to preserve and protect people and their homes, and to sanctify the faithful as well as various objects whether for church or home use.

Thus, Orthodox Christians drink Holy Water with profound faith and reverence sometimes even daily. They also bless their homes, their children, as well as their “comings and goings” throughout the year.

It is important to know that the blessing of water restores the water to its original state. The prayer at the blessing of water reveals the true “nature” and “purpose” of water, and thus of the world: the sanctification of creation. Being restored through the blessing to its proper function, Holy Water becomes a means of communion with God.

At His Baptism in the Jordan River, Christ purified the nature of the waters. He showed that He came to save humanity through “water and the Spirit,” He showed that He desires, and causes, the transformation of all Creation.

Therefore we must be sure to keep in mind that, contrary to the often mistaken perception, the blessing of water does not occur “make bad water good.”

Not only is water contained in a bowl or vessel blessed in the church. Over the centuries, there have been many natural springs of water believed to have been granted grace from God, which also gives them healing and blessing properties.

In Orthodox Monasteries, and in traditional Orthodox parishes, there is often Holy Water and cups to drink from at the entrance of the church. The faithful may also take Holy Water home for their sanctification, as mentioned above. (Note that Orthodox Christians do not bless themselves with Holy Water upon entering a church as do Roman Catholics).

Every Orthodox family should have Holy Water at home, typically in a small plastic bottle kept near the family icons.

Holy Water should be used by families in cases of illness, when leaving on a trip, when a child is frightened by a bad dream, if someone feels threatened by evil influence or presence. Students may partake of Holy Water before tests.

Couples bless their homes, and themselves, with Holy Water after an angry fight or struggle. Many of the faithful partake simply to strengthen their faith and hope in God.

Water is seen by the Church as a prime element of creation. In the prayers said for its blessing, we ask that the original purpose of water — as a source of life, blessing, and holiness — be revealed to one who drinks it and who is sprinkled with it.

In the Old Testament Book of Genesis, creation began when the Spirit of God “moved over the face of the waters.” In the blessing of water it is understood that the world and everything in it is “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and when it becomes corrupted, God restores it by effecting the new creation in Christ, His Divine Son and Our Lord, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

The celebration of the Great Blessing of Water at the Feast of Theophany is an affirmation that through Christ’s own Baptism, He has lifted the curse of Adam’s sin and restored the creative goodness of God’s creation back to mankind. Thus when Christians are baptized into Christ, part of creation is once again sanctified in Christ.

In the weeks following Theophany, in January each year, the priest customarily visits parishioners and offers prayers of blessing for their homes, businesses, and family members. This tradition is meant to visibly represent God’s sanctifying work everywhere in the world and to bring the blessing of the Church to the “church” of the home and hearth.

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