The water blessed on Theophany


Is there any difference between the water blessed on the Eve of the Theophany and the water blessed on the day of the Theophany? When should we get the water to take home?

The grace of the sanctification imparted to the water is the same on the Eve of the Theophany (January 5/18) as it is on the day of the Theophany (January 6/19). It is one and the same feast day, and one and the same prayer rite is used. The basis for the Great Blessing of the Waters on the Eve (January 5/18) consists in the fact that on this day, a Great Festal Vespers is served, which is combined with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. Thus, the feast has already commenced. For the day of the Baptism of the Lord (Theophany) the Great Compline service is read, then a festal Matins, and the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

In our days, the use rite of the Great Blessing of the Waters has become a traditional rule. In the ancient Church there was an important reason for this: On the Eve of the feast, catechumens were baptized. In honor of this Sacrament, the first Great Blessing of the Waters was served in remembrance of the Baptism that our Lord received in the waters of the Jordan at the hands of the holy prophet John the Baptist. The difference between first and the second Blessing is that on the Eve, the Blessing took place in church, where the catechumens were baptized, while on the day of the Theophany the faithful went to the Jordan River.

In the first centuries (including even the fourth and fifth), the Great Blessing of the Waters took place only in the Jerusalem Church, where there was a tradition of going down to the Jordan River to the place where our Savior received Baptism. Later people would make a “Jordan” in other places where rivers and lakes where to be found.

Christians have great reverence for Theophany water. St. John Chrysostom said, “Christ was baptized, and sanctified the nature of the waters; and therefore on the feast of the Baptism, all who draw water at midnight bring it home, and keep it all year. And so, the water in its essence does not spoil from the duration of time, but when drawn this day, it remains fresh and unspoiled for a year or two or three, and even later than that it is of no less quality than water freshly drawn from springs” (Discourse XXXVII. “On the Baptism of Christ”).

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