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A Meditation on the Vidi Aquam

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

On Sunday High Mass during Paschaltide the priest may sprinkle holy water on the congregation as the choir sings a special Easter chant called the Vidi Aquam. The text of this chant comes from the book of Revelation and is translated:
"I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple, alleluia; and all they to whom that water came were saved, and they shall say, alleluia."
This practice of using water in the sacred liturgy comes from the Old Testament. Indeed, before any Jew entered the temple, he performed ritual washings. In like manner, before Catholics enter the church, we bless ourselves with holy water. This small ceremony is a great sacramental of our faith and a reminder of our holy baptism. As we make the Sign of the Cross, the sign of our salvation, we recall that we have become the living temples of the Holy Spirit.

And in the sprinkling rite, we have also recalled the Passover of the Jews. In the Old Testament when Pharaoh refused to free the Jewish people of slavery, God punished Egypt with plagues and death. But God commanded Moses to have each Jewish family sacrifice a pure, spotless lamb and mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of that lamb, so that the angel of death would pass over the people of God and spare them the plague of death.

Just as those Jews dipped hyssop branches in the blood of a lamb to mark the doorposts of their homes, so the doorposts of our souls are marked by the very finger of God with an indelible mark – Baptism. In the sprinkling rite of Mass, we recall these sacred truths of our faith as the priest dips the sprinkler down into the holy water and once again marks the doorposts of our houses just as Moses dipped the hyssop branch in blood and sprinkled the Jews.

When Jesus shows his hands and his side to St. Thomas in today’s Gospel, He points to His sacred wounds. His hands and feet were nailed to the Cross and his side was pierced with the lance. On "Quasimodo Sunday," we behold the wound in the heart of Christ, the source of Divine Mercy. St Thomas Aquinas says the Divine Mercy of God is, indeed, God’s greatest attribute. From that Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Faustina saw two rays of light illuminating the world. Jesus Himself explained to her one day,
"The two rays represent blood and water." [1]
At the mention of blood and water, we immediately think of the testimony given by St. John the Evangelist, who saw a solider on Calvary pierce the side of Christ, from which flowed blood and water. [2] And if the blood recalls the sacrifice of the Cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water must represent Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit. [3]

Notice that in the Garden of Eden, Adam’s rib is pierced and Eve, his bride, is created from his very side. On the Cross of Calvary, the rib of the New Adam, Jesus Christ, is pierced and from His side is born the New Eve, which is His Bride the Church. As the Church is born from the side of Christ, blood and water flow out in great abundance from the throne of Calvary. From the Cross, our Lord takes away the curse of the law. He offers each of us his river of living water that brings us to a type of mystical heaven here on earth. St. John in the book of Revelation states,
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life…and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." [4]
This scene in the last chapter of the Bible takes us back to the beginning to the Garden of Eden, the earthly paradise. The joys that God gave mankind in that 1st paradise cannot compare to the joys of the heavenly paradise where St. Paul has said that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. [5]

as we call to mind the mystery of salvation that is ours in Baptism, let us rejoice in the blood and water that has gushed forth from His side as a font of mercy for us and let us sing with the Church:
"I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple, alleluia; and all they to whom that water came were saved, and they shall say, alleluia."
Notes:
[1] (Diary, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 132). [2] (cf. Jn 19: 34). [3] (cf. Jn 3: 5; 4: 14; 7: 37-39). [4] (Rev. 22:1–3, NIV). [5] 1 Corinthians 2:9
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