Rorate Caeli

The Blessing of Epiphany Water



Tomorrow, January 5, the eve of Epiphany (the “Vigil of Epiphany” in the pre-1960 liturgical books and in the 2002 Missal), the Roman-Rite Blessing of Epiphany Water will take place once more in a number of fortunate parishes or communities. A superb description (with pictures) of this splendid rite according to the pre-Conciliar Ritual can be found in the blog of the Brothers of the Little Oratory in San Diego:


This rite was inserted into the Roman Ritual in 1890, arguably making it the most recent example of the influence of Greek ceremonial on the Roman Rite prior to the liturgical reforms of the 20th century.

An English translation of the 1890 blessing can be found in Musings of a Pertinacious Papist: Part 1, Part 2.(See also this webpage, look for Blessing #5.)

There was apparently a botched attempt to abolish this ritual in the early 20th century, as the following passage from a well-known rubrical guide shows: “(t)he solemn Blessing of Water which had been introduced in some places, and which owes its origin to the Greek Church, as is shown in the Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, 3730 … is to be struck out as abrogated, according to the Decree of the same Congregation, 3792, ad XV, and therefore it is not permitted to use it in the future. It is, nevertheless, retained in the revised edition of the Rituale Romanum (Vatican, typical, 1925), p. 705 ” (No. 547 of Matters Liturgical, 1938 edition, by Joseph Wuest C.SS.R and Thomas Mullaney C.SS.R.). At any rate, the blessing has continued to be used in some communities down to our own day, and is being rediscovered by others. 

It should be noted that prior to 1890, the solemn Blessing of Water was already to be found in some diocesan rituals (especially in Germany). There was also a particularly elaborate form of this blessing that was used at least until 1890 in Sant' Andrea della Valle and some other churches in Rome. It's text -- which is far longer than the 1890 text, with a Lesson and a Gospel reading, responsories and antiphons, a Preface, a Sanctus, and very long blessings -- can be found in pp. 1-46 of  The Blessing of the Waters on the Eve of the Epiphany

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Greek blessing of water looks more solemn.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_wEERatiBE


Even the priests enjoy it very much.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZioHktO_Wo

Mark of the Vineyard said...

I was unaware that such existed in the Latin Church, much less that it was of Greek import.

Anonymous said...

Our Eastern schismatic brethren sometimes frown at what they perceive as horrible latinizations, like confessionals, Rosary or Eucharistic Adoration when they encounter them in Eastern Catholic churches (or in, God forbid, Orthodox!).

I wonder if the prohibition of this ceremony in the Latin Church wasn't something like a rare reaction against byzantinization.

Rubricarius said...

There is a wonderful book on the Blessing of the Waters at Epiphany in the Greek, Roman, Syriac, Coptic and Russian Churches by the Marquess of Bute.

It used to be very rare but is now re-printed.

Anonymous said...

Yes, if we are against latinizations the Eastern Catholic Churches, why should a "byzantinization" such as this be accepted?

-Garrett

Anonymous said...

"(t)he solemn Blessing of Water which had been introduced in some places, and which owes its origin to the Greek Church, as is shown in the Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, 3730 … is to be struck out as abrogated, according to the Decree of the same Congregation, 3792, ad XV, and therefore it is not permitted to use it in the future."

What part of IS NOT PERMITTED isn't understood. Even as a long-standing trad who loves ceremony, I would view the violation of this prohibition as contempt for lawful authority. It has nothing to do with Eastern Rite practices being foreign to the Latin liturgy. I'm all for the Eastern Rites just as long as they are Uniates. Unfortunately our separated brethren, the Orthodox, are simply using the sacraments illegally.

Anonymous said...

There is a pious custom of blessing wine in memory of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist on 27 Dec, unfortunately not covered by Rorate Caeli. I somehow prefer wine over water.

Anonymous said...

What part of IS NOT PERMITTED isn't understood. Even as a long-standing trad who loves ceremony, I would view the violation of this prohibition as contempt for lawful authority.

Have you ever heard of "custom", "custom contrary to law" in particular? These are canon law basics.

Anonymous said...

Custom can take precedence even over decrees of Oecumenical Councils.

Church Law is not like a civil law of a totalitarian state. It's a living organism, Body of Christ, not a machine.

Canon law comes FROM custom, not the opposite.

(c) Thirdly, a custom contrary (contra) to law has the effect of abrogating, entirely or in part, an already existing ordinance, for it has the force of a new and later law. As regards penal ecclesiastical legislation, such a custom may directly remove an obligation in conscience, while the duty of submission to the punishment for transgressing the old precept may remain, provided the punishment in question be not a censure nor so severe a chastisement as necessarily presupposes a grave fault. On the other hand, this species of custom may also remove the punishment attached to a particular law, while the law itself remains obligatory as to its observance.

Parmenides said...

It looks like this Epiphany Water blessing falls under the category of blessings that are reserved to the Bishop or his delegate. Does this mean our priest needs to have this delegation in order to perform this blessing? Thanks for your help.

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

"There is a pious custom of blessing wine in memory of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist on 27 Dec, unfortunately not covered by Rorate Caeli. I somehow prefer wine over water."

Unfortunately, I was too busy to get around to posting on this blessing.

"Yes, if we are against latinizations the Eastern Catholic Churches, why should a "byzantinization" such as this be accepted?"

Garrett, this "byzantinization" was approved by no less than the Congregation of Rites in 1890.

In contrast, many "latinizations" never received the approval of the proper authorities, were often implemented in the face of disapproval from the Popes, and were often the product of overzealous Eastern Catholic clerics who were eager to prove that they are just as Catholic as the Latins.

Another distinction that I can think of is this: the Greek-influenced "Blessing of Water" does not displace or mutilate any existing ceremony of the Roman Rite. In contrast, many "latinizations" were accomplished at the expense of truncating or damaging the ceremonies to which these were attached. Sometimes the "latinizations" took the form of practically suppressing important parts of the Eastern liturgies (e.g. supplanting Matins with the recitation of the rosary, etc.)

"What part of IS NOT PERMITTED isn't understood. Even as a long-standing trad who loves ceremony, I would view the violation of this prohibition as contempt for lawful authority."

Go back to my post. Don't you find it funny that while the Congregation of Rites (early in the 20th century) prohibited the use of this rite, the 1925 edition (and subsequent editions, including the ones in present use by most Traditionalists) of the Roman Ritual nevertheless retained it? That's why I referred to it as a "botched" attempt at forbidding the rite. One doesn't prohibit a rite by including it in the official liturgical books!

I've been going through the Internet and I see that not a few TLM communities (FSSP and ICRSS) will be having this blessing. And I haven't come across any reference as to whether the FSSP or ICRSS priests ask for the bishop's delegation to perform this ceremony. Furthermore, the edition of the Roman Ritual that can be found on Sancta Missa does not mention the necessity of a bishop's delegation to perform this rite, and does not reserve this blessing in any way.

Joel said...

Schismatic Greek Church? or schismatic and heretical Latin Church? Where does the word schisma came from?

If the Greek Church who was schismatic then the Latin Church should have used Latin word for schisma... right?

Second, this pious celebration has been in the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church even before the Pope of Rome invented or made innovations to the teachings of Christ's Church.

Just another mad Catholic said...

My FSSP priest will be conducting the blessing tommorow, its a shame however I can't be there (I travel two and a half hours on sundays to get there) does anyone have the blessing in English so that I can grab a local N.O. Priest to do it ?

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

Just another mad Catholic:

Please look for the English translation here:


http://www.sanctamissa.org/en/resources/books-1962/rituale-romanum/48-blessings-for-special-days-and-feasts.html

Just have the "May he also be with you" changed to "and with your spirit" and you'll be fine. (Don't forget to remind the priest to use blessed salt as well. Perhaps you should bring a pinch of salt and have it blessed first.)

Anonymous said...

About the blessing of wine on St. John day:
the text of blessing(in latin and the hungarian translation):
http://gloria.tv/?media=43769
And it is detailed on the page
capitulumlaicorum.blogspot.com in Hungarian.

It is said there, that this text is from the Rituale Strigonense (Rituale from Esztergom) which was used in Hungary till the liturgical changes after the II. Vatican Council.

Thomas

Anonymous said...

Just have the "May he also be with you" changed to "and with your spirit" and you'll be fine.

--This change is unauthorized.

Don't forget to remind the priest to use blessed salt as well.

--Blessed or exorcized?

Anonymous said...

"Schismatic Greek Church? or schismatic and heretical Latin Church?"

The Church of God, which is the Catholic Church, cannot be in schism from herself. And the Church is where the Pope is.

Anonymous said...

Blessing of water on the eve of Ephiphany was done in Croatia since at least 14th century (probably much earlier) and the first Croatian version of Rituale Romanum (by Bartol Kasic) from 1640 has it:
http://tinyurl.com/yk3qvpg

Anonymous said...

...Have you ever heard of "custom", "custom contrary to law" in particular? These are canon law basics.

I wouldn't call performing the ceremony tomorrow following a "custom." Especially in the United States where, I doubt, it was seldom performed. Many parishes did not even do this for Easter or the Vigil of Pentecost which are the two days most closely connected with the blessing of water.

Quite simply I don't think you can't start a "custom" which has been suppressed. I would grant if one is truly reviving the custom practiced in a specific parish etc. prior to the ill-conceived "liturgical reforms," there might be some justification.

Anonymous said...

"Quite simply I don't think you can't start a "custom" which has been suppressed."

You can, for example when the situation has changed. Every custom had to be introduced at some time. And you may introduce a new custom consciously, not only on the basis of "ooops we've been doing something contrary to law for a long time so let it be". Of course there are certain rules (intention of obligation, level of authority above a parish, etc.), but nevertheless it's a beautiful way the Holy Spirit, the Soul of the Church, works in her.

This is the concept of custom that stood behind the law of medieval Europe. Much part of the law was unwritten at that time. The society then formed a real, organic, living tissue. The barbaric concept that law is something that comes from the unconstrained ruler and it is to be followed blindly just as it is comes from the pitiful era of absolutism. It's philosophical origins lie in Protestantism. This evil, inorganic, mechanic, automatic ideas of social machinery have totally devastated whole world and destroyed our perception of law. And the next step is the totalitarian notion that everything just should be regulated by the omnipotent state. Just like official instruction what ZOO employees should do when a parrot happens to escape from a cage, introduced in the European Union.

Also the equally laughable but far more evil idea that authorities can redefine what marriage is and impose this gay horror on us is a heritage of this devastation.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 15:04, great Rituale! Is this language still used in the liturgy somewhere? How is it called properly? "Croatian"? "Illyrian"? This was probably the only language approved in the Western Church except Latin! I would love to see the Croatian liturgy!

Anonymous said...

This blessing is probably not Byzantine at all. Batiffol in his History of Roman Breviary cites 8th or 9th century doument that attests its use in Rome. Perhaps later it fell out of use there, but different versions of it existed in many places of Europe.

Anonymous said...

Armenian Catholic Astwacahajnutiun, that is Thephany and Christmas together in Poland, 3 I 2010.

http://www.isakowicz.pl/index.php?page=news&kid=8&nid=2547