An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Holy Water

Water that has been blessed for religious and devotional use. It may symbolize purification, blessing, dedication, and renewal of the baptismal covenant. An aspergillum (tube with holes) or a small branch of a tree or shrub may be used to sprinkle holy water during a church service or at other times. It is especially appropriate to sprinkle the congregation with holy water at the Renewal of Baptismal Vows at the Easter Vigil (BCP, p. 292) and at other times of renewal of the baptismal covenant. The asperges is the ceremony of sprinkling holy water over the altar, clergy, and people before the eucharist. Some parishes use a stoup, basin, or font to make holy water available to those who enter the church. Those who wish to participate in the pious custom of “taking holy water” may touch it with the fingers, placing a drop of it on the forehead while making the sign of the cross on the forehead, chest, and shoulders. The early origin of this custom is evidenced by the presence of stoups for holy water in ancient basilicas. Holy water has been known as “lustral water,” reflecting its symbolic role in purification. A rubric in the service for Restoring of Things Profaned in the BOS notes that each profaned object may be symbolically cleansed by use of water or incense as signs of purification.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.