The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
We all love April showers.
During Easter, we have April showers in church. (And in May and June this year as well.)
The sprinkling rite is an option that can be used for the penitential rite of the Mass, most especially during the Easter season (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 56). The water used can be blessed at that Mass by the celebrant or water that has been previously blessed may be used.
This holy water is used to bless the congregation. The rite serves to remind us of our baptism, which is also why parishes that have a large baptismal font will use water taken from it for the sprinkling rite. (The water in that font would have been blessed at the Easter vigil when we also renewed our baptismal promises.)
The priest celebrant and other ministers of the liturgy often use branches dipped in the water for the sprinkling rite — sometimes it looks a lot like a flinging rite. An aspergillum (a metal tube with a sponge inside and either holes or a brush at the top) can also be used for dispersing the holy water.
It’s fun to see who ends up with the most water on them. Children usually love the sprinkling rite, and will even trace the water droplets over the pews or missalettes. Most people bless themselves when the drops of water splash down.
Blessing yourself is a natural thing to do, because holy water is a sacramental. It imparts God’s blessings, through the prayers of the church. As a sacramental, holy water can — through the grace of God won for us in Christ — even wash away venial sins. This’s why holy water is a perfect fit for the penitential rite of the Mass, the time when we recall our sins and ask forgiveness as we prepare to celebrate the Eucharist.
The holy water, sprinkling us from above at Eastertide, is also meant to remind us of Christ’s blood that washed us clean and which was shed on the cross. At Mass, we receive that blood of Christ and may partake of it in the Eucharist. At his crucifixion, Christ’s side was pierced and both blood and water flowed from the wound. The sprinkling rite reminds us of that as well.
Holy water never lets us forget that we were claimed by Christ and washed clean by his loving sacrifice. Just like April showers bringing May flowers, holy water helps bring us new and healthy growth in Christ.
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of multiple books.