When I got my collection of stones home last week I washed them. The colours in wet stones are much more vibrant than those in dry stones. But in order to keep those vibrant colours they must be kept wet, cleansed over and over. It is as though I have immersed my stones in the waters of baptism.
One of the things I love about going to an Episcopal church, is that whenever a child is baptized the whole congregation repeats its baptismal vows. As part of the service the celebrant recites a prayer of thanksgiving for the water, which includes these beautiful words:
We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
We thank you, Father for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.
Water is so wonderful – cleansing, refreshing, life-giving and life-restoring. In baptism, we rise up from the watery grave into the new life of Christ our Redeemer.
Throughout the Biblical story emerging from water always symbolizes a transformation from death to life, from chaos to new creation. We see it in the story of Noah and the flood and in the children of Israel passing through the waters that consume the Egyptians. We see it most vividly in the baptism of Jesus. He emerges from the waters with the dove, the loving Spirit of God hovering over him.
Through Christ creation is renewed. Water is no longer symbolic of the threat of chaos but has been transfigured by our loving God into a cleansing force that takes away the sins of the world. In the flood of Noah, sinners were drowned and wiped out. In the cleansing baptism of Jesus sin itself is drowned and the sinners are cleansed and made whole.
Water is essential to life, but unless it is transformed by the blessing of God, it creates floods, devastation and chaos. With the blessing of God however, it cleanses and gives life to the entire creation each day and in every moment. From the moment of our conception, we are wrapped in water’s tender embrace, but we must emerge out of the waters to find true life out in God’s world.
Blessing of water is symbolic, not just of life, but of transformation. When I wash my stones I can see blemishes in them that I was not aware of before. Some of them are permanent markings that penetrate into the structure of the stone, reminders of long ago cataclysms that disrupted the formation of the rock. Others are ingrained dirt, surface blemishes that must be scrubbed time and time again to remove them.
Every use of water transforms and renews. When we drink it we rehydrate dry and thirsty cells, we cleanse toxins from our bodies and we revitalize our energy. When we sprinkle it on our gardens it renews the dry and thirsty ground and gives life to every plant. When it rains from the clouds it refreshes and renews the very air we breathe.
Every use of water can be seen as a form of baptism, an opportunity to offer prayers of thanksgiving and appreciation for the gift of water and of life. We can so easily take it for granted, however missing the richness of these prayerful and sacramental moments that using water affords us, reminding us constantly of our covenant with God and reassure us of the cleansing of our souls that has taken place through baptism. Armenian Orthodox theologian Vigen Guroian in his delightful book of garden mediations Inheriting Paradise comments: When we bless water, we acknowledge God’s grace and desire to cleanse the world and make it paradise.
 Book of Common Prayer 1979 , 306
 Guroian, Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening, (Grand Rapids Mich, Eerdmans Publishing, 1999) 9
This is the second post in a series of meditations on rocks
Yesterday I published: