We follow our joyous celebration of the Nativity of Christ with the blessed time of Theophany, the Baptism of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. On this day we join Christ in the waters of life, renewing and re-Sanctifying the source of life itself, for nothing lives without water. We gather in our churches, and at all places of the source of the flowing of waters and submerge a cross with the image of Christ into the water, as Jesus Himself descended and renewed and restored this source of our continued life. At this time we celebrate the Blessing of Water.
Orthodox Christians have done this for thousands of years. It is not new to us, it is not simply a popular thing to do, nor is it done as a demonstration against any one person or operation. It is done, because it is necessary in our understanding of our relationship with both our Creator and Creation. We have been given the task of caring for creation from the beginning. Last year, I spoke of how our understanding of the command to “fill the earth and subdue it” is not properly understood in English. I said, “This is the first and, if you will, prime directive that God gave to man. In our theology, we are so caught up in the transgression of the eating of the forbidden tree, we forget the only other command that man was given by his Creator; that of being responsible for and caring for, all the earth and all its inhabitants.” The Blessing of Water is our sacred responsibility to all of mankind to infuse the Holy Spirit into all the earth and help restore the fallen nature of our world to its formal existence. If we would not do it, we would be resigning the world to its continued death and decay, which Jesus came to overcome and restore.
Through our act of blessing, we invoke God’s Spirit upon the only part of creation that continually moves over every other part of creation. Water continually moves, from state to state and from earth to heaven, and back again, descending, penetrating, and raising above, over and over, in a cycle that secures the bounties of life will continue for our benefit and livelihood. It is both an act of renewal and an act of Thanksgiving, a blessing that Christ Himself instituted, as He said, so that we can “Fulfill all righteousness.” Said another way, we bless the water so that the fallen world can be returned to that state for which it was created, a sacred place filled with the Spirit of God.
When mankind becomes abusive of creation, it destroys the very bounds we are working to restore. No matter what form it takes, when our cravings for the riches of the earth exceed our actual need, an imbalance is created that reverberates throughout creation in many ways. We have seen a continued imbalance in the weather patterns, in one place the waters cease to flow, in another they produce a deluge that harms the earth and its inhabitants. If we overuse the earth, it fails to produce new crops, if we over harvest fish or animals, they return no more to our habitat. In all these events we see acts of sinfulness that only God can absolve and a fallen earth only He can renew.
Let our prayer at this time be one of repentance for our sins, of petition “For Seasonable Weather, abundance of the fruits of the earth, and peaceful times let us
pray to the Lord, and Give Thanks unto the Lord.”, and for a better understanding of our connection to the creation of which we are given to be caretakers.
In closing, let us listen to the words of St. Basil the Great, in his “Hexameron”, his homily on the Genesis creation story, he speaks of the importance of water:
Finally the sea is good in the eyes of God, because it girdles the isles, of which it forms at the same time the rampart and the beauty, because it brings together the most distant parts of the earth, and facilitates the inter-communication of mariners. By this means it gives us the boon of general information, supplies the merchant with his wealth, and easily provides for the necessities of life, allowing the rich to export their superfluities, and blessing the poor with the supply of what they lack. Hexameron, Homily IV, St. Basil the Great. NPNF
Bishop of Sitka and Alaska