The Blessing of Water
Christ by His descent into the Jordan makes the redemption of humankind possible. The Baptism in the Jordan was the first epiphany of the Triune God. To be redeemed is to know the Trinity, to be in communion with the Triune God. Therefore the Baptism of our Lord marks the beginning of the redemption of the world. This reality is reflected in the nature of Christ’s Baptism as a concrete, historical event. The actual water that passed by Jesus on that day in the Jordan is still with us today. This water flowed to the Dead Sea, evaporated, and is spread throughout the world. Enough time has passed that this water has been incorporated into everything living thing on earth through the natural processes of life.
“Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your works, and there is no word which suffices to hymn Your wonders!”
Standing before the waters of Baptism, like standing before the primeval waters of creation, we give thanks and adoration to God. By this act we fulfill our original purpose in creation, worship of the Holy Trinity in the Kingdom of God.
“For You, O our God, have revealed Yourself upon earth, and have dwelt among men. You did hallow the streams of Jordan …”
Anamnesis is remembering, a recollection of past events. Here it is a recapitulation of salvation history. Knowledge and acceptance of Christ, faith in Him, communion with Him, following Him – even to the cross and death – is salvation. The waters of creation darkened by the fall, which had become the symbol of death, are now revealed as the waters of Jordan, the beginning of a new creation and salvation.
“Wherefore, O King who loves mankind, come You now and sanctify this water, by the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit.”
Epiclesis means the invocation of the Holy Spirit. It is the descent and operation of the Holy Spirit that re-creates the fallen world.
“Let all adverse powers be crushed beneath the sign of the image of Your Cross.”
The Church teaches that all things are essentially good but corrupted by the fall. Therefore, this water, like all things, is not neutral. It is either lost to the world or given back to God. By this rite we bring it back into communion with its creator. Only in this way, in Christ, can this water become a means of communion with God, a symbol of His glory and presence, His action in the world, and a sacrament of regeneration.
“O Master of all, show this water to be the water of redemption, the water of sanctification, the purification of the flesh and spirit, the loosing of bonds, the remission of sins, the illumination of the soul, the laver of regeneration, the renewal of the Spirit, the gift of adoption to sonship, the garment of incorruption, the fountain of life.”
Consecration, “show this water to be the water of …” is miracle even if the objective eye of modern science can see nothing happen to the water. In fact to expect such a change would be contrary to the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Christ came not to replace natural matter with supernatural but to restore it and fulfill it as the natural means of communion with God. This water now represents the whole of creation before God. Creation as it is at the end of time, when all things will be consummated in God, when He will fulfill all things in Himself. This reality is revealed to us now in the Church in this sacrament. Through it we pass over into the Kingdom of God, just as the Israelites passed through the Red Sea into the promised land of paradise. This reality for the believer is more real than the objective reality of science. Consecration is always a manifestation and epiphany of this End, the ultimate Reality for which the world was created, which is fulfilled in Christ through His Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, which the Holy Spirit reveals in the Church today, and which will be consummated in the Kingdom to come.