During Advent, Fr. Timothy Schumaker shared reflections on some of the signs, symbols and gestures of our Catholic faith to remind us why we do these things so that we can bring more intentionality when we do them.
To begin, I thought I would comment on the very first thing we do when we walk into church - blessing ourselves with Holy Water. We probably don’t’ even think about it anymore because we are so used to it.
The first and main reason is because it reminds us of our Baptism. Reminds us that we are children of God, saved by his grace and a member of his Church, we literally sign ourselves with the water which made us so at our baptism.
This makes for a beautiful moment, because the very first thing we do upon entering a church is to affirm our identity: Children of God. Whenever we walk into the church, dip our hand in the water and make the sign of the cross we are affirming who we are, we do not enter the church as guests or strangers, we enter as beloved sons and daughters, we enter into our home.
In addition, this act contains the bookends of how Christ has saved us, we use holy water, which reminds us of Jesus’ Baptism his first act salvation and then we make the sign of the cross, the cross that marked the last act of salvation by Jesus. In that one act we are remembering the beginning and end of how Jesus rescues us. It expresses the history of salvation.
Finally, since we do this at the entrance of the church, it marks a moment of transition. When we are leaving the secular and entering the sacred. This very space is called the sanctuary, a place where the anxieties and evils of the world have no power. And so by blessing ourselves with Holy Water it is an opportunity to consciously leave all that worries us outside. So that this sanctuary will be a place of rest, peace, renewal and encounter with God.
In conclusion the reason we sign ourselves with holy water is because it reminds us of our identity as son and daughters through Baptism, expresses salvation history and marks our transition from the secular to the sacred.