The gospel of the Samaritan Woman gives us some beautiful insights into the use of water in the rite of the liturgy.
The Samaritan Woman met Jesus at the well, as we also meet Him at the Church. He asks us to draw water for Him as He asked her, but what is the water we draw?
It begins with the washing of the hands by the priest. The deacon, representing the congregation (for he is their servant) takes the jug of water which he has previously filled and pours it out on the hands of the priest at the beginning of the Offertory. The fact that he has previously filled the jug indicates that he has come to Church prepared to meet Christ and to serve Him.
The deacon’s act of pouring the water assists the priest in his preparation for offering the Body and Blood. Thus, the deacon, like the Samaritan Woman, is the conduit by which many come to meet with Christ. This is symbolic of the role that each Christian should play in the world. The Christian can do little by himself, but by doing small acts of service, he can help open the way for Christ to enter people’s hearts.
There is a small bottle of water placed on the altar, together with the bottle of wine. These two are mixed in the cup by the priest as he prays the Prayer of Thanksgiving. Water is simple while wine is chemically complex. Perhaps this mixing can also remind us that our simple thoughts and ideas and efforts, when mixed with the work of Christ, can become an important part of the process of our salvation, and even that of others.
We see ourselves in the Samaritan Woman:
- Like her, we interact with Jesus through the discussion about drawing water.
- Like her, we get to know Him, and discover just how well He knows us.
- Like her, our lives are changed through this dialogue.
- And like her, we share this amazing Person with our relatives and friends.
These acts occur early in the liturgy. Sadly, the Church is usually relatively empty at that time as people drift in late. What a pity that they miss this important experience! Those who do come early get to have this personal meeting with Christ; a great foundation for fully experiencing the prayers that follow.