Great Blessing of Water on Theophany

Father Iura prayed the prayers for the Great Blessing of Water on Theophany (Jan. 6, 2019) with Father Stepan concelebrating.

“The voice of the Lord upon the waters cries aloud saying, “Come you all, and receive the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding, the Spirit of the fear of God, from Christ who is made manifest. Today the nature of the waters is sanctified, and the stream of its own waters, seeing the Master being baptized.”

The Holy Theophany is yet another feast of the Nativity and the beginning of the ministry of the Lord with his baptism in the Jordan.

Striking is the theology used in the prayers that through the waters we are given the grace of redemption, … that Satan be swiftly crushed beneath our feet and that every counsel that is directed against us by the Evil One may be made of no effect, … that we may be enlightened by the light of knowledge and godliness through the descent of the Holy Spirit, … that the blessed water be an instrument of a remission of sins, for the healing of soul and body and for every purpose that is expedient… and be a fountain springing us into eternal life.

Blessing of Water

As a cradle Byzantine, my memories of church when I was a young boy are spotty. They touch only those aspects that somehow grasped my attention. One of these was the blessing of the water on Theophany: the solemn prayer, the priest lifting up the trikirion and thrusting it into the water, the going up to receive the holy water for our home. I don’t remember how much I understood, but this was a very powerful part of our faith.

The Christian faith does not depend on exotic substances, in magical elixirs, in secret formulas, but the Christian faith is the transformation of simple gifts of life – of water, of bread, of wine, of oil. Our water is no longer ordinary water, but it has been touched by the feet of God incarnate. Merely to see this day, merely to drink this water, merely to pray to Jesus baptized by a human hand transforms us. We need water to live, to drink it for nourishment, to wash with it to be kept clean, and now to be baptized with it for the life and cleansing of our souls as well as our bodies. The prayer for the consecration of water on Theophany may be said to be thrilling. We use words in ways we do not usually use them. The words come to the water, and all creation is transformed.

And so the priest prays: “By your will you brought forth all things from nothingness into being; by your might you control creation, and by your providence you govern the world. You created all things from four elements, and crowned the cycle of the year with four seasons. The spiritual powers tremble before you. The sun praises you, the moon glorifies you, the stars serve you. Light obeys you, the depths tremble before you, and the springs adore you. You spread out the heavens like a tent. You established the earth upon the waters. You fringed the seas with beaches of sand. You poured forth air for breathing. The angelic powers serve you; the ranks of archangels worship you; the many-eyed cherubim and the six-winged seraphim stand before you or hover over you, yet they dare not gaze at your unapproachable glory. Although you are God, boundless, indescribable, and without beginning, you came upon earth, and taking the likeness of a servant, became like one of us.”

Theophany – God is manifest! Nothing will ever be the same again, and it is in all these created elements that are free and available to us all.