Roderick Strange: Water can bring us death or a new life in Christ

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In 1990 I was appointed to a parish where both the church and house needed extensive refurbishment. Late one afternoon the clerk of works came to report that the day's plumbing work was unfinished; it could be completed only the following morning and they would have to leave the water turned off overnight.

He advised me to fill buckets for my needs. But what were my needs? I realised that I needed water for drinking and for cooking, for washing up and washing myself, for shaving and flushing the lavatory. It taught me very quickly how essential water is for survival. Water is a source of life. Some time later a woman came to see me to plan a funeral. Her brother had fallen into the local canal and drowned. Water is not only a source of life. It can be an instrument of death.

Then some years later still I found myself here at the Beda College in Rome, where older men from the English-speaking world are prepared for priestly ordination. One was Vietnamese. He had escaped from his country by boat and spent nine days on the open sea. Water was carrying him to safety, but it was also a threat: there was doubt about the seaworthiness of the boat, danger from storms and from pirates. For him water was ambivalent. And water's very ambivalence is one reason why we use it for baptising, when we mark a passage from death to new life in Christ.

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Filed under: * TheologySacramental TheologyBaptism

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Posted February 23, 2008 at 4:03 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]
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