You are here: Home / Resources / Documents / WCC programmes / Spiritual Life / Meditation by Fr Prof. Ioan Sauca on the great blessing of waters

Meditation by Fr Prof. Ioan Sauca on the great blessing of waters

Fr Prof. Ioan Sauca, Bossey Institute director and WCC deputy general secretary, on 13 January 2020 shared the meaning behind the service of “great blessing of waters”, which once a year celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River according to Orthodox tradition.

13 January 2020

Fr Prof. Ioan Sauca, Bossey Institute director and WCC deputy general secretary, on 13 January 2020 shared the meaning behind the service of “great blessing of waters”, celebrating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River according to Orthodox tradition.

Dear colleagues, sisters and brothers in Christ,

Today we will celebrate the great blessing of waters according to Orthodox tradition. During the year, there is another service of the lesser blessing of the water, which can be done any time. The great blessing of waters service is done but once a year, on the occasion of the celebration of the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. It is called “great” because during the prayer of blessing, there is a double invocation of the Holy Spirit. This water is used for the consecration of new churches and their altars, liturgical vestments and objects, the oil for confirmation. The faithful take home this water and keep it for the whole year, sprinkling and blessing with it their houses, the people, the water sources, the animals and all their belongings. It is considered a means of conveying God’s grace and blessing as it remains clean and fresh during the whole year without being submitted to any process of pasteurization.

The feast of Jesus’ baptism in Jordan is referred to in the Orthodox calendar as the feast of Epiphany or Theophany. Historical evidences show that this event became very early a day of celebration for the Christian communities together with the feast of Resurrection. Up to the fourth century, the event of Nativity of Christmas was referred to within the feast of Epiphany and this old tradition is still kept today in the Armenian Orthodox Church where Christmas and Epiphany are celebrated together on the 6th of January.

The feast of Epiphany that we mark today (which in the East is related to the baptism of Jesus) has a great importance and I will try to summarise it within three perspectives.

 

  1. The feast of Epiphany clarifies the very identity of the Christian community giving a straightforward answer to the question that has been asked and is still being asked today concerning the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the baby born in the manger of Bethlehem. Who was he: a prophet, a charismatic master, a revolutionary thinker and leader,  a liberating messiah from the oppressive power of the Empire? The event of Theophany shows that Jesus had to be and to fulfil all the tasks mentioned above because he is the very Son of God, the Alpha and Omega, the Eternal one through whom all that exists came into existence, the Pantocrator that holds all creation together in unity. He is affirmed and confirmed by the voice of the Father and the coming upon him of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. In the event of the Baptism in Jordan, God manifested in a clear way as a Trinitarian God.
  2. The event of Christ’s Baptism in Jordan is portrayed as a cosmic event, in and within creation. God’s Son descends into the waters to be baptized; the heavens open, the voice of the Father is being heard and the Holy Spirit descends. In the early Christian literature, this event is referred to as an event of re-creation, a repetition in history of the very act of creation as described in the first chapter of Genesis: there the Father acts through his word (Logos), and the Holy Spirit “hovers over the waters.” Life comes about out of the existing creation, which shows that the whole cosmos is interrelated and different segments of it cannot exist in separation. Any living creature including the humans are part of the cosmos, and their very existence is both interrelated and mutually conditioned. By blessing the water today, the church expresses the strong conviction that the Spirit of God descends to bless and sanctify the humans with their souls and bodies but also the whole of creation that they are related to.  To speak in contemporary language, today’s event is a strong pragmatic lesson of God’s eco-theology. We may have been forced to discover it in our times; but God has acted according to it from the very beginning and the early church had it as a core of its spirituality.
  3. The service we celebrate today reminds each of us of our own Baptism and its existential importance for each of us. In our personal Baptism, the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended to sanctify the baptismal waters and us who were immersed in it. In the baptismal water, each of us has experienced the act of God’s recreation through Christ in the Holy Spirit, coming out of the waters as new and born again beings. In Baptism we were grafted as members in the Body of Christ. We have put on Christ, interiorizing him into our beings as Christ has interiorized us into Him. As we enter our chapel, on the right hand there are depicted the waves of waters of Jordan and Jesus Baptism. We enter the chapel passing through the waves of our Baptism, reminding us that all of us here belong to a fellowship that confesses our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures, to the glory of the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

AMEN

Fr. Ioan Sauca