In the Pontifical of Clement VIII, the making of the Gregorian water ends with a long encomium of the water itself, which also serves as a final blessing of it, and invocation of God’s providential care upon the church. Very shortly after, the bishop will use the water to consecrate the altar and bless the walls of the church on the inside. In the revision of 1961, this encomium is suppressed. In order to keep the post on the blessing of the Gregorian water to a manageable size, it is here given in translation as a separate post. I have borrowed some of this translation from an English and Latin text of this ceremony, (published, I believe, in England in the late 19th century,) but also made many modifications to its archaic style. The author’s name is not given on the title page. Whoever he was, I wish to thank him for his invaluable help in navigating this passage; no translation, however, can properly convey the majesty and poetic richness of the Latin original.
Be thou sancti + fied by the word of God, heavenly water, be thou sancti + fied, o water, that wast trodden on by the footsteps of Christ; that pressed down by the mountains, art not shut in, that dashed against the rocks, art not broken, that poured upon the earth, failest not. Thou bearest up the dry land, thou carriest the weight of the mountains, and sinkest not. On heaven’s top thou are contained; spread through all, thou washest all, and art not washed thyself. As the Hebrew people fled, hardened as a mass thou wast bound up. Again, released in briny whirlpools, thou didst destroy the dwellers of the Nile, and pursue their hostile band with raging flood; one and the same art thou, salvation to the faithful, and vengeance upon the wicked. Struck by Moses, the rock did spew thee forth, nor couldst thou lie hidden within its crags; when ordered by Majesty’s command thou camest forth. Borne in the clouds, thou makest fertile the fields with pleasant showers. Through thee, when bodies are dry with thirst, drink is poured forth, sweet unto pleasure, and wholesome unto life. Streaming hidden in inmost courses, thou givest vital air, or fertilizing sap, that the earth may not be exhausted, its bowels dried up, and deny us its wonted harvest. By thee rejoiceth the beginning, by thee the end. Or rather, from God it is that we know not thy bounds.
Nay rather, Almighty God, when we pronounce the favors of the waters, not unmindful of Thy mighty deeds, we proclaim the wonders of Thy works. Thou art the author of blessing, Thou the source of salvation . Humbly do we pray Thee and beseech, that Thou may pour forth the shower of Thy grace upon this house, with the abundance of Thy + blessing, bestow upon us all good things, grant us prosperity, and drive away adversity, destroy the demon of evil deeds; and establish here the Angel of light, friend, provider and protector of all that is good. May Thy + blessing strengthen this house that was begun in Thy name, and completed with Thy aid, that it may long endure. May these foundations merit Thy protection, these roofs Thy covering, these doors Thy entrance, this sanctuary Thy approach. Through the light of Thy countenance, be there benefit to men, and stability to these walls.
The 13th century liturgical scholar and canonist William Durandus, who created the first true Pontificale, gives a beautiful explanation of the reason for this special mixture of water, salt, ashes and wine.
There are four things which drive away the enemy (i.e. the devil). The first is the pouring forth of tears, which is symbolized by water; the second is exultation of the spirit, which is symbolized by wine; the third is natural discretion, which is symbolized by salt (traditionally a symbol of wisdom, whence also its use in the baptism); the fourth is profound humility, which is symbolized by ashes. Water then is penance, wins is exultation of the mind, salt is wisdom… ash is the humility of penance.
In another way, water is the people, or humanity, for there are many waters, many peoples. Wine is the godhead, salt is the teaching of the divine law, … and it is ash which attests to the memory of the Lord’s Passion. Wine is mixed with water, (as) Christ is God and man. For through faith in the Lord’s Passion, (which is had through the teaching of divine wisdom) the people sealed (or ‘marked’) by the water is joined through the union of faith to its Head, who is God and man. (Rationale Divinorum Officiorum I, 7, 8-9)
|The tomb of William Durandus in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome. On the left side, he is presented to the Virgin and Child by St. Privatus, the patron saint of his see of Mende, France; St. Dominic is on the right.|