In place of traditional cross processions gathering thousands of people, hierarchs and priests throughout the Orthodox world have been traveling through their cities and villages by car, or even blessing their cities from above, during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Yesterday, this practice came to America.
On Thursday, April 9, Archimandrite Fadi (Rabbat) of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese took to the skies to bless El Paso with holy water.
Fr. Faddi explains the practice on his Facebook page:
Why Sprinkling Holy Water over the City from the Sky?
The use of holy water is based on the story of Jesus’ baptism by Saint John the Baptist in the River of Jordan and the Orthodox interpretation of this event.
In this view, the baptism of John was a baptism of repentance, and people came to him to have their sins washed away by the water. Nevertheless, since Jesus had no sin, for being the Son of God, second person of the Holy Trinity and one in essence with Father, his baptism in the Jordan’s River had a Divine effect, making it holy and great, that is used fully for its original created purpose to be an instrument of life.
That’s why the order of the blessing of water which takes place during the feast day of Divine Theophany is called great because of its special festive ceremony, imbued with the remembrance of the Lord’s Baptism, in which the Church sees not only the prototype of the mystical washing of sins, but also, the actual blessing of the nature of water itself, through the immersion into it of God in the flesh.
The Orthodox Church teaches that God created all things good, and that sin has invaded this good world with sickness and death. And part of the mission of the Church is to restore all things through the grace of God.
This is why we have “Holy water”, we have “Agaiasma”, “Holy things”. It is a setting apart of water as a kind of act of restoration. It’s mystically transforming water not into something magical, but it is restoring it to its Edenic dignity, and with this honor, it is in communion with the Divine.
According to Church belief, Agiasma is not merely water of spiritual significance, but a new being, a spiritual-corporeal being, an intertwining of heaven and earth, of grace and matter, and a close one at that.
This is why the Great Agiasma according to Church holy Canons is viewed as a kind of lower degree of Holy Communion: in those cases, when a penance and prohibition against approaching (to receive) the Holy Body and Precious Blood is imposed on a member of the Church due to committed sins, there is a provision, usual to Canons: “He may drink Agiasma only.”
We not only drink it for our blessing, but as well, we use it to bless our homes, our cars, our towns and our cities.
That’s why we blessed today our beloved city of El Paso. The Holy water makes El Paso not only Strong, but more, stronger.