What is Holy Water and How to Use It?

What is holy water symbolism in the Bible? Where does holy water come from? How to use it correctly and for what purpose? Find out from our article.

What does water represent in the bible?

Water symbolism in the Bible includes divine teaching and the gift of God (see John 4:10), death (see Ps. 69:2), primordial chaos (see Gen. 1:2), and more. Often water acts as a substance through which a person receives healing (see John 5:2-4, 9:6-7). There are also biblical verses describing the consecration of water by the Old Testament priesthood (see Numbers 5:17). The biblical meaning of water is multifaceted, while the use of it in the Church originates from an ancient Old Testament practice.

Where does holy water come from?

The recipe is simple: a priest or bishop reads the holy water blessing prayer over ordinary water, after which he immerses his cross in it. There are two rites of consecration: the greater and the lesser sanctification of the water. The great blessing of waters is performed on the eve and the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, while the lesser rite is performed at all other times.

The greater rite is distinguished by particular solemnity and longer duration, and the water consecrated in it is considered the greatest church relic after the Body and Blood of Christ. In ancient times, it served as a kind of “consolation” for those who were excommunicated from the Sacraments or unable to take Communion for any other reason.

Where to keep holy water?

In most church narthexes, there is a vessel for it, openly available at any time.

To keep holy water at home, it is best to purchase a new vessel designed specifically for storing holy water. This vessel should not be used for any other substance. You can find custom bottles for holy water in our catalog. Traditionally, holy water is kept at the iconostasis.

Holy Water Bottle

How to use holy water?

Sprinkling of holy water: in the Church, a priest uses a sprinkler to bless people or objects with holy water. In a similar way, you can sprinkle your house and icons and even wash your face with it. You can drink it every day, especially if you have a spiritual need for it.

Holy Water FAQ

Who can make holy water?

Water can only be blessed by a bishop or priest. The laity cannot perform any rites of consecration.

How long can you keep holy water?

St. John Chrysostom wrote that it can remain fresh for years, as long as it is treated reverently.

What happens to a person taking holy water?

Holy water is a conductor of divine grace, healing, cleansing and sanctifying a person and acting as a conductor of spiritual support from God. We should remember however the words of St. Theophan the Recluse, who said that grace is communicated only to those who deserve it through repentance, prayers, humility and other Christian virtues. If a person does not live a Christian life, there will be no benefit to him from drinking holy water, except in cases of special grace of God.

How to drink holy water?

Usually it is consumed in the morning with prayer and on an empty stomach. However, in case of spiritual need, one can do it at any time. Again, the main thing is reverent attitude.

Where to get holy water?

  • From a water-consecration tank in any church.
  • In church, during the great consecration served on the Epiphany eve and on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
  • During the lesser consecration of water that can take place on any day. Traditionally, the lesser blessing is performed on Friday of Bright Week, on the days of patronal feasts, at the midst of Pentecost.

What makes holy water holy?

The priest, praying over it, invokes the grace of the Holy Spirit, which sanctifies it.

About the author

John Malov,
Reader, theologian, member of The Catalog of Good Deeds team.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Know everything about Orthodoxy? We can tell you a bit more!

Subscribe for our weekly newsletter not to miss the most interesting articles on our blog.

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: