The Natural Sacramentality of Water


Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, January 9, 2022

Think of it! It took 13.5 to 15 billion years or so (depending on where you date the Big Bang) little by little to make the cup of coffee you wish you had this morning. 13 billion years since the Big Bang and then came… Keurig!  Have you ever thought of that? (Thank you Fr. Keating.) Keurig as a triumph of creation! Creation is wondrously interconnected. There is actually a dinosaur in my coffee cup!

In the Blessing of Water on this the day we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord of Creation, we celebrate the God-given, natural transcendence of water and of the common-place. What is more common and taken for granted than water? 

The Lord loves the common place, water, matter, common people. He blesses the common place by assuming it into his Incarnate Flesh. In the Service of the Blessing of Water we recognize the Truth of our Lord's Omnipresence and his Cosmic redemption. We recognize the natural Sacramentality of Creation and on this day we set aside this font of water as Holy to remind us that all things are sacred, loved and blessed by God. All things are blessed by love, not by magic. St. John of Damascus declares unequivocally that Jesus Christ is the end of magic although many of us still hold tightly to ideas just barely a hair’s breath below hocus pocus.

In human terms, God takes great pleasure in creation, watching it grow, evolve, develop. Creation is continuous and never-ending. The Holy Spirit infuses every molecule of creation with Himself cradling it like a grandmother cradles her grandchild. God is the Father who is more like a Mother.

And today, in memory of the Genesis story where God "hovers over the deep" and the Baptism in the Jordan of the Incarnate Word, we lovingly and reverently pray over a font filled with water and, through ritual and prayer, song and invocation, reveal water in and of itself to be a miracle and a sacrament - holy and a means of communion with God.

And we are changed. Our eyes are opened. Today we are called to be witnesses and participants in the never-ending Theophany of God's presence in every place and in all things and active partners in the recreation of the cosmos.

What will we do with this Epiphany as we go into the land of Zebulon and Naphtali, the lands of darkness. Shall we not spread the good news that we are loved and our destiny is to shine like the stars of heaven. Even in the darkest places the light shines because God is there! 

As Thomas Merton discovered on the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, KY as his eyes were opened to see everyone around him as they really are in a glorious divine Epiphany he wrote:

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. 

There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Yes, you and me, and water and everything. Today water whispers to us we are all shining like the sun.