By Archpriest Vasileios E. Voloudakis
Mistaken views which, unfortunately, are taught nowadays even by Clergymen!
On 5th January, in Orthodox Churches, the Great Holy Water Service is held, and subsequently priests sprinkle with Holy Water the houses of as many christians wish it and request it.
The same Service is held on 6th January as well, on the feast of Epiphany, on which feast we celebrate the event of Christ’s Manifestation on Earth as Father God’s One and Only Son and Word.
At the same time we celebrate the Holy Trinity’s manifestation, since, as our Church chants “Trinity’s manifestation took place on the Jordan”.
The holy water of both days, 5th and 6th January, is the same. That is it has the same blessing power.
Some people, however, misguided by the fact that on Epiphany Eve the reading of the first long Prayer is left out, claim that, due to this omission, the holy water of 6th January is of greater blessing grace. Advocates of this view are not right, for the omitted prayer is not blessing but preaching. It analyses the meaning of the feast without containing invocation of the blessing Divine Grace.
Real difference of blessing power exists between the Great Holy Water and the Minor Holy Water, which is held at the beginning of each month.
The difference of blessing Grace between Minor and Major Holy Water is not qualitative but quantitative. What differs in not the quality of God’s Grace, Which is always the same, but the quantity. The same happens with Priesthood. All three grades, Bishop, Presbyter, Deacon have received the same quality of God’s Grace but not the same quantity, and therefore, there is difference in activity of the three grades of Priesthood.
Great Holy Water is the most important remedy of our Church after the Holy Communion, that’s why we receive holy water before receiving holy bread, while, on the contrary, Minor Holy Water as fourth in order of power, is received after holy bread. Great Holy Water is also administered to those who are not eligible or have not accordingly prepared for the Holy Communion.
Great Holy Water is directly related to the sacrament of Repentance and Confession, as it originates in the repentance baptism of Saint John the Baptist, which was activated and completed by our Lord’s Presence and Baptism in the river Jordan.
The correlation of Great Holy Water with the sacrament of Repentance enjoins fasting without oil before receiving Great Holy Water given that fasting is integrally connected with repentance. Oilless fasting for the reception of Great Holy Water is always kept and not only on Epiphany Eve, as Great Holy Water is received all year round.
Some people demandingly insist on drinking Great Holy Water on Epiphane Eve, without having fasted oil, assisted by some priests too, who equip them with a supposedly… irrefutable argument: “But, why do we need to fast oil in order to drink Great Holy Water, while we sprinkle the walls with it and pour it to the ground?”!
People who use this argument must know that only on two days (5 and 6 January) of the year Great Holy Water is poured on the ground and sprinkled everywhere, and this happens for the environment in which we people live and move to be blessed. Floor and tiles cannot fast! Fidels, however, can and must fast, because, as we have already said, Great Holy Water is connected with the sacrament of Repentance.
There is an exception of oilless fasting if Epiphany Eve is on Saturday or Sunday, on which days we consume oil, because we never fast oil on Saturdays and Sundays except only on Holy Saturday.
The blessing Prayers render Great Holy Water equivalent to the water of the baptism that’s why Great Holy Water is used for christening babies who are near to death or seriously ill in order to shorten the Christening Service. In addition, when the baptism takes place on Epiphany Day, Great Holy Water is used in the font, without reading the Prayer for the Blessing of the water but only the words that concern the person being baptised.
The Minor Holy Water Service (which is held every month) does not contain a blessing Prayer, that is invocation of the Holy Spirit’s grace, but the water is blessed only by immersing the Holy Cross. The prayer contained in some Small Prayer books was added at a later time out of ignorance of Ritual Theology. Furthermore, Minor Holy Water is poured and sprinkled on the ground all year round as opposed to Great Holy Water, which, as registered in the manuscript codes “is not poured at all” (Sinai code 979) on the rest of the days, except on Epiphany Eve and Epiphany Feast Day.
Great Holy Water is kept all year round in the Sanctuary of the Church and is used by priests on the above mentioned occasions and on other occasions too. Consequently, there is no reason why it should be kept in christians’ houses, given that in order for it to be kept in a house, spiritual conditions must predominate. After all, our Church is the “treasury of God’s Grace” and of course will never refuse to administer Great Holy Water to us, when the occasion calls for it and our Spiritual Father judges that it will be “appropriate to our advantage”.