Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Compendium of the 1961 Revision of the Pontificale Romanum - Part 2.4: The Blessing of Gregorian Water

The consecration of an altar, and the internal aspersion of the walls of a church, are done with a special form of holy water, which is mixed not only with blessed salt, but also blessed ashes and wine. This is popularly known as “Gregorian water”, a term which is not used in the rubrics of the Pontifical of Clement VIII, but is found in those of the 1961 revision.

In the 1595 Pontifical, the blessing begins with the bishop singing, as at the beginning of the Hours, “Deus in adjutorium meum intende,” and the choir responds “Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.” The bishop then sings “Gloria Patri etc.” and the choir answers “Sicut erat etc.”, but Alleluia is not said. This is then done a second and third time, each time in a higher voice. The bishop then exorcizes salt with the following formula, which is proper to this ceremony, and not the one used in the regular blessing of holy water from the Rituale.
I exorcise thee, creature of salt, in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who said to his Apostles, “You are the salt of the earth,” (Matt. 5, 13) and through the Apostle said, “Let your speech be always in grace seasoned with salt;” (Coloss. 4, 6) so that thou may be sanctified for the consecration of this church and altar, and to the expulsion of all temptations of the demons; and to all who taste thee, be the defense of body and soul, health, protection, and confirmation of their salvation. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who shall come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire. R. Amen. (The words “Thy Son” noted in bold type are found in all editions of the Clementine Pontifical, despite the fact that they make no sense at all in this context; they are removed in the 1961 revision.)
The bishop then says “Dominus vobiscum. Oremus.” and the following prayer.
Lord God, almighty Father, who deigned to grant from heaven this grace upon salt, that with it may be seasoned all the things which Thou didst created as food for men, bless + this creature of salt, to drive away the enemy; and place within it healing remedy, that it may serve those who taste it for the health of body and soul. Through Christ, our Lord. R. Amen.
He then exorcizes water with the following formula, also proper to this ceremony, and different from the regular blessing in the Rituale.
I exorcise thee, creature of water, in the name of God, the + Father, the + Son, and the Holy + Spirit; that thou may drive the devil from the confines of the just, that he may not be in the shadows of this church and altar. And Thou, o Lord Jesus Christ, pour forth the Holy Spirit upon this Thy church and altar, that it may serve to the health of every body and soul that adoreth Thee, and Thy name be magnified among the nations; and may the unbelieving in heart be converted to Thee, and have no other God beside Thee, that art the only Lord, who shall come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire. R. Amen.
Before the prayer over the water, the bishop says first the versicle “Domine, exaudi orationem meam (O Lord, hear my prayer),” to which the ministers answer, “Et clamor meus ad te veniat (And let my cry come unto Thee),” followed by “Dominus vobiscum. Oremus.”
Lord God, almighty Father, who established all the elements, who through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord, willed that this element of water should serve for the salvation of the human race; we humbly entreat Thee, that hearing our prayers, Thou may sancti + fy it by Thy merciful countenance; and so may the incursion of all unclean spirits depart from it; so that wherever it be sprinkled in Thy name, the grace of Thy blessing may come, and all evils, through Thy favor, long depart . Through the same (long conclusion).
The ashes are blessed with the following prayer, but not exorcized; it is also preceded by the versicles “Domine, exaudi. Dominus vobiscum. Oremus.”
Almighty and everlasting God, spare the penitent, be favorable to the suppliant, and deign Thou to send Thy holy Angel from Heaven, to + bless and sancti + fy these ashes, that they may be a wholesome remedy to all who humbly implore Thy name, and in knowledge of their offenses, accuse themselves, lamenting their wrongdoing in the sight of Thy divine clemency, and asking for Thy most serene mercy in earnest and steadfast supplication. And grant that, through the invocation of Thy most holy name, all who shall sprinkle them upon themselves for the remission of their sins, may gain health of body and protection of the soul. Through Christ, our Lord. R. Amen.
The bishop now mixes the salt with the ashes in the form of a Cross, saying, “May this salt and ashes be mixed together. In the name of the + Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy + Spirit. R. Amen” He then takes a handful of this mixture, and drops it into the water in the form of a Cross three times, saying each time, “May this salt, ashes and water be mixed together. In the name of the + Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy + Spirit. R. Amen”

The wine is then blessed with the following prayer, but not exorcized; it is also preceded by the versicles “Domine, exaudi. Dominus vobiscum. Oremus.”
Lord Jesus Christ, who at Cana of Galilee made wine from water, Who art the true vine; multiply Thy mercy upon us, and deign to bless + and sancti + fy this creature of wine, so that wheresoever it shall be poured or sprinkled, (that place) may be filled with the richness of Thy divine blessing and sanctified. (Who livest etc.)
He then pours the wine into the water in the form of a cross, saying, “May this, wine, salt, ashes and water be mixed together. In the name of the + Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy + Spirit. R. Amen.” Another prayer is then said, also preceded by “Domine, exaudi. Dominus vobiscum. Oremus.”
Almighty, everlasting God, creator and preserver of the human race, giver of spiritual grace, and bestower of eternal salvation, send forth Thy Holy Spirit upon this wine mixed with water, salt and ash; that, armed with the defense of Heaven’s might, it may serve for the consecration of this Thy church and altar. (long conclusion)
The bishop then delivers an encomium of the water, which midway through turns from addressing the water to addressing God. This is extremely long, and will be posted in an English translation later this week in a separate article.

He now goes to the door of the church, and with his crook makes a cross on the upper part of the inside of the door, and another on the lower part. He then says:
May the unconquered Cross be set upon the threshold, and both these doors be signed with the mark of Thy grace; and through the multitude of Thy favors, may all who visit this house find peace with abundance, sobriety with modesty, and plenty with mercy. May all uneasiness and mishap depart far from here. May want, pestilence, disease, languor, and the incursion of evil spirits leave forever at Thy visitation; that the grace of Thy visitation, poured forth upon this place, dispersed to its furthest limits, may extend to its courts on every side, and this cleansing stream flow out to bath all its corners and recesses. So may there always be in this place the joy of tranquility, the graciousness of hospitality, plentifulness of the fruit of the earth, reverence for religion, and the abundance of salvation. And where Thy holy name is called upon, may the fullness of every good thing follow; let every temptation to evil flee away, and may we merit to have with us the Angel of peace, of chastity, of charity and of truth, who may ever keep, defend and protect us from all evils. (long conclusion) 
The bishop return to the place where he blessed the water, and says,
Dearest brethren, let us humbly pray God, the Father almighty, in whose house there are many mansions, that He may deign to bless and keep this abode, through the sprinkling of this water mixed with wine, salt and ash. (long conclusion)
The blessing of the Gregorian water is simplified in the 1961 revision as follows:
1. The three-fold “Deus in adjutorium” and “Gloria Patri” at the beginning is removed. In its place is said once “Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini”, and the response “Qui fecit caelum et terram.”, which are also said before very many other blessings.
2. “Dominus vobiscum” is said only once, before the final prayer. (“Almighty, everlasting God, creator and preserver…”) The versicle “Domine exaudi orationem meam” is removed everywhere. The other prayers, i.e. the individual blessings of salt, water, ashes and wine, are all introduced only by the word “Oremus”.
3. As noted above, the words “Filium tuum” are removed from the exorcism of the salt.
4. At the four occurrences of the words “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, where the bishop formerly made three crosses over the elements to be blessed, he now makes only one. (These are at the beginning of the exorcism of the water, and the three comminglings.)
5. The prayers of the blessing of the water and wine now end with the short conclusion instead of the long one.
6. In the prayers for the blessing of the ashes and the wine, the words “bless and sanctify” are reduced to “bless”.
7. The final prayer is rewritten to read “send forth Thy Holy Spirit upon this water mixed with wine, salt and ash”, where the traditional version read “upon this wine mixed with water, salt and ash .” It ends with the short conclusion.
8. The encomium of the water, during which the bishop blesses it four more times, is suppressed.
9. The crosses on the door, and the prayer that follows, (“May the unconquered Cross…”), and the final prayer are also suppressed.

The blessing of Gregorian water; illustration from a 1595 edition of the Roman Pontifical. (Permission to use this image has been very kindly granted by the courtesy of the Pitts Theological Library, Candler School of Theology at Emory University.)

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