The idea of holy water as a sacramental in the Roman Catholic Church is best illustrated by looking at the idea of what a sacramental is. The word sacrament is derived from the Latin, “sacra” meaning holy, treasured, cherished, or sacred. Holy water is water that is blessed by a priest or member of the clergy or can even be blessed by a deacon or believing member of any faith.
The key element contained in holy water is also significant. It is the basic element of salt. This article will explore not only some of the uses of holy water but also look at the meaning and origin for why salt is used as a key element in a sacramental and is in and of itself considered protective and in a sense holy. In addition, the article will look at some other traditions of other belief systems to compare traditional holy water to other forms of water that might be considered blessed or holy.
The key element of salt is the first and perhaps one of the most important symbolic substances involved in holy water. Classically it was considered to contain the same numerical qualities for the Hebrew people as the very Name of God. In addition in Christian scripture, Jesus is seen as indicating the importance of being as “Salt of the earth.” Auxiliary Bishop Wilhelm Stockhums, D.D.
in his book “The Priesthood” by TAN Books and Publishers 1974 indicates this in the following: “(salt)is to act as a preservative, safeguarding mankind from the moral decay of sin.” Indeed salt has been used in many traditions for protection, among Egyptians in frying pans for exorcisms, in circles around the beds of those who have bad dreams, at the threshold of doorways to prevent evil spirits.
The element of water of course has it’s own symbology as well. In the classic holy water of Christianity it represents the water of Life Jesus Christ, as well as cleansing, baptism, washes away your sins and many other symbols. It is a purifying and cleansing agent especially when mixed with salt. Evil in some traditions could not pass running water, just as in the previous paragraph, evil could not pass a circle of salt.
Holy water is used to bless believers as they enter a church as well as for the sanctification of holy ground, thereby protecting that ground. Holy water is sometimes used by priests in blessing objects, by tracing the holy water on the cross as the object is prayed over. It is also classically used as part of the rites of exorcism in order to drive away evil. While we have examined holy water from a Christian perspective there are other traditions that use saltwater in a similar fashion for blessings and as a source of protection.
One such tradition is the rainbow water of the Hawaiian Kahunas. The water is taken and blessed with prayers of the rainbow or focusing rainbow energy and blessings of many colors into the salt water itself and then later using that form of water as a form of holy water. While the tradition differs as do the prayers, there is a laying on hands over the waters, and the key elements for cleansing, of salt and water are still included.
Holy water in many traditions contains the elements of salt and water. Most importantly it contains the element of faith, a faith that does not necessarily require anything more than trust and true belief. The power of holy water from throughout the world, ranging from the waters of Lourdes, to those of the Jordan are famous for their healing qualities.
Yet it is the common holy water of so many churches that is used for baptisms and blessings and to remind us of our baptism as we enter the door of many churches. It is significant that this special holy sacramental is mirrored in the faith of other groups. Holy water is a wonderful tool, and the making of holy water is at the discretion of the believer although they may want to consult the teachings of their belief system.
However salt and water with the blessing of a clergyman is the basic ingredient, for it to cleanse, protect and purify are other key thoughts in the making of holy water which can be found for free at many churches.
Most importantly a thing is only a symbol IF one does not believe that every action triggers an unseen reaction in the spiritual world, and indeed that we as believers of many faiths, also believe as the Nicene Creed would say ” In things seen and unseen.” It is that power that makes holy water an important tool and blessing.