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Week 7: The waters of Easter

Reflection by John Gibaut

The streams and themes of these Seven Weeks of Lent and of these Seven Weeks for Water flow together as Lent draws to its conclusion. The Seven Weeks of Water during Lent recall the final seven weeks of preparation for candidates for Christian Initiation in the early church, culminating in the waters of the baptismal pool and the bread and the cup of the eucharistic table at Easter.

In both the ancient and modern celebrations of the Great Vigil on Easter Eve, the confluence of water and the paschal mystery is made clear in the readings on that night, beginning in creation and taking us through the biblical stories of liberation from and through water; especially the flood waters and the Ark, the passing through the waters of the Red Sea, and being nourished in the desert by the water flowing from the rock in Exodus. These biblical stories of God’s liberating action through water are a foretaste of the Resurrection of Christ and ours with him through the waters of Baptism.

Liturgically, the connectedness of water and the dying and rising of Jesus in the Easter Vigil is expressed in the blessing of baptismal water, especially when candidates for Baptism proclaim their baptismal faith, come to the living waters, are made members of the family of Christ, the Church. With or without candidates for baptism, the Easter waters recall our own Baptisms, and become the focal point for the renewal of our baptismal faith in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

This year’s observance of the Seven Weeks for Water recalls the deepest liturgical roots of baptism and baptismal preparation as the heart of Lent, pointing to the Church’s use of water at prayer. The insight of Christians from ancient times to the present is that the church is most overtly itself in its public prayer, for where two or three are gathered around the table of the Word, the baptismal font and the table of the Eucharist, the Risen Christ is in their midst. What the Christian community says and does, receives and celebrates in its public prayer proclaims and shapes what it believes.  The community’s experience of itself in communion with the Triune God becomes a living source of reflection on what it believes , what it is, and how it ought to act as Christ’s body in the world.

Accordingly, what the Christian community says and does around water in prayer—the water of Baptism, the Baptism of the Lord, the Blessing of the Waters at the Theophany, the example of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and all liturgical uses of water in public prayer—has profound implications for Christian understanding and awareness of water today.  That we use water in prayer—and how we use it, and how much of it we use—has consequences.  The Christian community’s liturgical use of water has the potential to be a rich source of theological reflection about what water is, and about the care with which it is used.  The degree to which Christians experience the holiness of water in prayer will also contribute to the churches’ engagement with other faith communities, governments, environmentalists, and with all who thirst for a just and ethical use of water today.

Let us close these Seven Weeks for Water with a prayer from the Great Vigil of Easter at the blessing of the baptismal waters. May we believe what we pray and live what we believe:

“In baptism we use your gift of water,
which you have made a rich symbol
of the grace you give us in this sacrament.

At the very dawn of creation
your Spirit breathed on the waters,
making them the wellspring of all holiness.”

John Gibaut is director of the Commission of Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. A priest of the Diocese of Ottawa in the Anglican Church of Canada, he was a professor in the Faculty of Theology at Saint Paul University, Ottawa, for fourteen years, where he taught, among other things, liturgical theology.

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Photo: Daniel Kedinger
/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Posted By: Maike Gorsboth on Mar 29, 2010 09:46AM Add Comment