Monday, April 12, 2010

Water from the Side of the Temple

I woke up this morning singing a hymn we sang at Mass yesterday during the asperges or sprinkling rite that reminds us of our Baptism. The priest and deacon walk down the aisles of the church and dipping the aspergillum into the bucket filled with holy water, they use it to sprinkle the people as they pass by. The hymn is:

I Saw Water Flowing
by Bob Hurd

I saw water flowing
Flowing from the side of the temple
And where the water flowed
There was new life.

When Your hour had come and they pierced You, Lord,
Blood and water flowed forth from Your side.
With great love You gave Yourself for us!
Who can tell the great love by which You brought Your Church to birth!

Come to Christ the Lord, the living stone,
Rejected once but now the corner stone. 
Joined to Him, we are God's dwelling place,
Priestly people and instruments of God's redeeming grace.

Not to us, O Lord, but to  You all praise
For apart from You we build in vain
Help us live this holy mystery
"It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!"

May this house of prayer be a home to all.
May the love of Christ reigh within these walls,
So the ones who knock find welcome here
And all those who are thirsting receive living water here.

May this church embody Your presence, Lord:
Help for the oppressed, Good News for the poor.
Use our hands to build your reign of peace;
Give us vision to fashion a more just society.

The lyrics of the refrain are based on Ezekiel 47 where a vision of water flowing from the side of the temple is described.
"Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate, that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side. Going on eastward with a line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the loins. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, 'Son of man, have you seen this?' Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw upon the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, 'This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the stagnant waters of the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish; for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.'" Ezekiel 47:1-9

This passage predicts Jesus as the temple. Remember that when Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temple, he predicted His own resurrection from the dead, referring to His body as the temple.
"In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, 'Take these things away; you shall not make my Father's house a house of trade.' His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for thy house will consume me.' The Jews then said to him, 'What sign have you to show us for doing this?' Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' The Jews then said, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?' But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken." ~ John 2:14-22
The waters that flow from the side of Jesus  - when, after His death on the cross, the soldier pierced His heart with a lance - are the waters flowing from the temple.
"Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water." ~ John 18:30-34

So, how does all this relate to today's Gospel? 
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born anew." The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.'" ~ John 3:1-8
Nicodemus takes Jesus literally but Jesus is speaking of a baptism with water and the Spirit that shall come after His death. The water that flows from the side of Christ when His Sacred Heart is pierced with the lance is symbolic of the waters of Baptism  that we are reminded of during the sprinkling rite. 

The word baptize comes from the Greek word baptizein meaning to "plunge" or "immerse". Through Baptism, we are plunged or immersed into Jesus' death.
"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." ~ Romans 6:3-5
Baptism confers on us new life and the Holy Spirit. The catechism tells us in 1225,

In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a "Baptism" with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible "to be born of water and the Spirit" in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
It is no longer us who lives, but Christ Who lives in us. The waters continue to flow through us in those things we say and do that build up the Kingdom of God. We become the ones to give the living waters to those who thirst, continuing to carry out the mission of Christ through the Church:
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; ..." ~ Isaiah 61:1-3

So let us remember during the sprinkling rite that Jesus is the temple from which the waters of Baptism flow. It is our reminder that we have been born of water and the Spirit to a new life in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin. St Paul tells us that, instead, we have become slaves of God. "...the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:15-23)

Photo credit: from the Mel Gibson film "Passion of the Christ" starring James Caviezel


  1. This is a very interesting interpretation of Scripture and your website indicates you are an ardent student of the word of GOD.
    I have 2 questions: 1) Are there any biblical texts you struggle with?
    2) Where did you get the photo/painting of JESUS being pierced on the cross? I am interested in obtaining permission to use it in some material on our Savior's Sanctuary Steps.
    Thank you.

  2. Dear Patricia,

    I think we all struggle with various biblical texts. I do better with new testament readings than old testament ones, but I draw from both. I am still learning. I don't worry when I do not understand a passage. I meditate on it and study it in light of Church and Biblical Tradition. God will reveal to me what He wants me to know when I am open to His Word. Then He calls me to share it. My blog is one way of sharing although my blog is not only a study of scripture passages. I also post pro-life news on my blog. Anything I am working on, I post. Sometimes its secular, but mostly I do reflect on whatever is going on in my life. Thanks for reading my post! God bless you!

  3. Patricia, I forgot to say that the photo is taken from "The Passion of the Christ". I should have added that to the credits at the bottom of the post. Thanks. Theresa