Week 2

This week's reflection, by Anne Louise Mahoney from Canada, was first published during the Seven Weeks of Water 2010. That year, the overarching theme of our biblical reflections was “Holy Water”. We explored what the meaning and use of water in our liturgical traditions can tell us about the meaning and use of water in our everyday life. And vice versa - how can the reality of water today, including the crisis of water, inform and inspire our liturgical use of water?
Week 2

Detail from a mosaic of Christ’s baptism.

Waters of Baptism, Water of Life

Reflection by Anne Louise Mahoney*

With joy you shall draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)

My parish church features a large baptismal font where infants and adults alike are baptized. During Sunday liturgies for most of the year, the soft sounds of flowing water provide a peaceful backdrop during moments of silence and prayer and remind us of our baptism.

But on Ash Wednesday, things change. The font is drained and then filled with sand and rocks – dry, lifeless, muted. It always catches me by surprise. We are now in desert time, whether we like it or not.

For seven long weeks I pass by the sand-filled font each Sunday. I miss the water – its moisture, its gurgling, its cooling presence. I am prompted to face the desert areas in my own life – dried-up relationships, destructive habits, empty prayer, selfishness, pride, lack of compassion. I linger reluctantly in that barren place, trying to rediscover what is life giving.

As the anticipation of Easter builds, I begin to imagine the water’s return. I feel hope stirring during Holy Week, knowing that when I enter the church for the Easter Vigil, the water will be flowing once again, music to my ears and my spirit.

It is always worth the wait, worth the deprivation, to experience the water anew on this night. Before we even get to the glorious moment of baptism, the readings overflow with references to water. God’s spirit swept over the face of the waters of creation. God makes springs gush forth in the valleys. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

From the moment our lives begin, water is key to our future. Without it, we will die. We drink it, cook with it, bathe in it, wash clothes and dishes and floors with it, nourish animals and plants with it, and use it in manufacturing of all kinds. As Christians, we are baptized in it. Water is a primary force in our lives that is often beyond our control. When it unleashes its full strength through hurricanes or floods or blizzards, and when it dries up completely, we recognize its true power over us.

Today, we stand accountable for our mismanagement of water. We face the shameful fact that this essential resource is not available to all people. We watch passively as Arctic ice melts, threatening the precarious ecological balance of our planet. As Christians, reborn in Jesus through the baptismal water, we are called to restore the balance.

Each year, the Easter Vigil offers us a stark reminder that water is God’s gift to us – in baptism and in our everyday lives. Indeed, water is life. In baptism, Christians touch this source of life in a way that has the potential to change our lives completely. We rise with Christ to newness of life. As we go forth in Christ, we must remember that water is a blessing to be treasured, to be shared with all people, to be protected for future generations.

* Anne Louise Mahoney, a Roman Catholic lay person, works as a freelance editor for various Christian and secular organizations. She lives in Ottawa, Canada.

Ideas for study and reflection

Reflect on the "desert spaces" in your own life, those aspects of your life that make you feel vulnerable and thirsting for something. Remembering that the desert in the Bible is also a place of ascetic meditation, think also about those situations and places that make you feel closer to God.

Questions for discussion

  1. In what ways does the water crisis resonate with crises that may arise on the spiritual journey?
  2. How may water play a role in your own life of prayer and that of your community?
  3. What are the areas in your life in which you seek balance this Lent?

What you can do

  • Organize a Bible study / group meditation around the baptismal font of your church and let the participants reflect quietly for some time; then share how they can relate to water in their day to day life - both spiritually as well as physically.
  • With your family or faith community, list three ways to use water more respectfully or efficiently and put them into action.
  • Think about the "deserts" (places affected by the misuse and mismanagement of water, or lacking access) in the community or city where you live. Can you find out which networks or organizations address this issues and how you could support them with your prayers, time or other resources?
  • Help the Ecumenical Water Network address crucial water issues and get involved.  There are many ways of getting involved...


Please note: Opinions expressed in Biblical reflections do not necessarily reflect EWN and WCC policy. This material may be reprinted freely, providing credit is given to the author.