Thursday, April 9, 2015


The Holy Father sprinkles the congregation of more than 100,000 at St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday in place of the Penitential Act. It is a symbolic, sober sprinkling and the Holy Father does not move from his chair and no one is laughing because they got wet.  No one is upset because they didn't get some Holy Water on them! After the Sprinkling's OF absolution, the Kyrie is then chanted and then the Collect. The free-standing Kyrie should not be omitted in the Ordinary Form's Rite of Sprinkling!

I am not opposed to a good and holy sense of humor. At Mass, though, it should have its limits. I think a good homilist can use humor to a good advantage and this is the place where humor can be useful and not sacrilegious.

Yesterday as I was driving from Augusta to Macon, I was listening to the Catholic Channel's Gus Lloyd of "Cease the Day." One of his topics was the "Asperges" of the Mass, also called the "Vidi Aquam" during the Easter Season or in the Ordinary Form of the Mass, "The Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water."

He asked his listening audience about the  aspergillum. (the wand like-stick, usually brass or silver in color, with a ball at the tip) for the sprinling of Holy Water. He wanted to know what kind of " aspergillum." was used and if anyone got wet.

Most seem to have experienced the traditional aspergillum.; others experienced whisk like broom objects sprinkling them and still others leafy branches which the celebrant held. One said that the celebrant used an actual stick with a blue sponge at the end of it in the shape and size of a soft ball. She said everyone got doused and everyone was laughing throughout the sprinkling rite.

It seem for many, the rite of sprinkling was an exercise in levity. Not for all of course and certainly not in the Extraordinary Form of the Asperges/Vidi Aquam.

Please note, those Roman Catholics who have joined the schismatic Orthodox branches of the true Church, that liturgical abuse is not limited to the Latin Rite, but also in the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately this sort of abuse has found itself in the Latin Rite's Ordinary Form, but never in the Extraordinary Form:

Rome approved in the revised and gloriously wonderful English translation of the Mass the American custom or tradition of allowing on Easter Sunday only the renewal of baptismal promises in the place of the Creed followed by the Sprinkling of the congregation with the Holy Water, normally consecrated at the Easter Vigil. This does not happen in many other countries. At the Vatican the Rite of Sprinkling takes the place of the Penitential Act and after the Sprinkling the free-standing Kyrie is not omitted but chanted prior to the Collect.

In the Ordinary Form, the Rite of Sprinkling is primarily to recall one's baptism. Blah! How sexy is that?  In the Extraordinary Form and to a certain but not well taught extent in the Ordinary Form, the Rite of Sprinkling is to purify the sinner, call him to repentance and to purify the altar and ministers as well as the congregation and to exorcise all for the celebration of the Holy Mass. Now that is sexy and captures the imagination. Simply recalling the fact of one's baptism is, well, blah! It is nice, but so what. Yes we are baptized, but we need the on-going deliverance from Satan, temptation and sin which could lead to the fires of hell. We need to be purified of evil and any satanic influences, oppression or even possession! 

This is the difference in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form of the Asperges/ Vidi Aquam from Wikipedia:

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass:

Where the 1962 Missal is used, the Asperges is done before the principal Mass on Sunday. The Asperges is so called from the words intoned at the beginning of the ceremony, taken from Psalm 51, throughout the year except at Eastertide, when Vidi aquam, with Psalm 117, is intoned. It precedes every other ceremony that may take place before the Mass, such as the blessing of palms or of candles. It is performed by the celebrant priest wearing a cope of the liturgical color of the day. It is omitted when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, though many rubricists think that the sprinkling of the altar only, not of the congregation, should then be omitted. After intoning the antiphon the priest recites the psalm Miserere or Confitemini, according to the season, sprinkling first the front and platform of the altar, then himself, next the ministers and choir, and lastly the congregation, usually walking through the main part of the church, though he need not go beyond the gate of the sanctuary or choir. The ceremony has been in use at least from the tenth century, growing out of the custom of early antiquity of blessing water for the faithful on Sundays. Its object is to prepare the congregation for the celebration of the Mass by moving them to sentiments of penance and reverence suggested by the words of the 51st psalm, or by impressing on them that they are about to assist at the sacrifice of our redemption as suggested in the psalm used at Easter time.

Both the Asperges and the Vidi aquam are structured like the Introit of the Tridentine Mass: 1st verse (which includes Alleluias in Eastertide), 2nd verse (always from the Psalms), Gloria Patri (omitted in Passiontide), and then the 1st verse again.

The Ordinary Form of the Mass:

 "On Sundays, especially in Eastertide, the blessing of holy water and sprinkling with it may be carried out in memory of baptism ... If the rite is performed within Mass it takes the place of the usual penitential act at the beginning of the Mass" (Roman Missal Ordo ad faciendam et aspergendam aquam benedictam, 1)

During the Easter Vigil, Christmas, and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, many Catholic parish Masses reserve a part of the Mass during which the Confiteor would normally be said (at the start of the Mass) to renew the Baptismal promises; this may be accompanied by the use of holy water to bless the congregation. This Renewal of Baptismal Vows, along with Asperges, is common among Lutherans and Anglicans as well. During the Funeral Mass, the casket is blessed with holy water and incense.

The priest blesses the water with one of the three prayers proposed (one of which is reserved for Eastertide). He may also bless salt and put it in the water, if local conditions or custom of the people favours doing so. Then he takes a sprinkler (called in Latin and sometimes in English an "aspersorium",[1] and in English referred to also as an aspergil, and sprinkles himself, the ministers, and then the clergy and people, preferably walking through the church to do so.
While the sprinkling is being done, an antiphon or a hymn is sung. The Roman Missal proposes several, based on the following verses of Scripture:
But other suitable hymns are permitted.

Often, the antiphon Asperges Me is sung, except during the Easter season and on Palm Sunday, when it is replaced by the more lengthy and florid antiphon, Vidi aquam.


Anonymous said...


It's aspergillum.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

That's how I spelled it!

Shelly said...

Father, thank you for this timely explanation. In my parish on Easter Sunday, our pastor included the sprinkling Rite, however, he placed it after the homily, not during the Penitential Rite. I was confused by the placement, and if I am reading your post correctly it should have been done during the Penitential Rite, correct?
Additionally, he did not sprinkle the altar or himself and proceeded to run a stand-up comedy routine while "trying to get everyone wet." I was shocked and disappointed at his choice to go for the cheap laugh, and I thank you for a good explanation as to why it should have been a somber ceremony.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Actually Shelly, in my post I state that Rome did approve the American custom for Easter Sunday only, of omitting the Creed after the homily and having instead the renewal of baptismal promises in the question and answer form of Do you reject Satan, and then Do you believe, with the answer I do. After this the congregation is sprinkled with Holy Water and the General Intercessions take place.

This is an American novelty based on the Easter Vigil's renewal of baptismal promises.

The norm, although not in America, is for the Rite of Sprinkling with already consecrated Easter Water to replace the Penitential Act. The priest would introduce it as already blessed and omit the actual blessing of the water.

Afterward, there is a special absolution for the rite of sprinkling slightly different than that of the Penitential Act. Then follows the Kyrie and Collect.

Shelly said...

Thank you for the clarification. I read that it could replace the Creed in your post, but then near the end of the post it seemed to indicate that it should be done during the Penitential Rite. Good to know. My Missal did not allow for that "local custom."

John Nolan said...

Given that the Novus Ordo is a bit vague as regard to rubrics if, as is allowed, the Credo is replaced by a renewal of baptismal promises on Easter Sunday it would be appropriate for the Sprinkling to follow it, as in the Vigil.

The Vidi Aquam is one of the most beautiful chants in the liturgy; in the Graduale Triplex it has the St Gall neumes which indicate that it was used in the 9th century at the latest and probably much earlier. Whether it is sung before Mass (EF) or during Mass (OF) is less important than that it should be sung.

qwikness said...

I used to go to Holy Spirit in Macon. Once the priest (not Father Kavanaugh) got a big broom, half the size of a push broom, dunked it in a big punch bowl and flung Holy Water on us. We were sitting in the font, he reared back with that broom and I thought to myself ,"Uh Oh..." and this huge wall of water came at us. We got drenched. He then proceeded around the church but we got most of with that first fling. All over us, in the eyes, in the mouth, all over our shirts. We were wet the whole rest of Mass. I'll never forget that.

Rood Screen said...


The American practice on Easter Sunday is merely an option, and so the celebrant is free to recite the Credo instead, and to opt for the Sprinkling Rite at the beginning of Mass. Either way, the rite in similar to the Temple practice of sprinkling the people with lamb's blood, and so it is certainly a serious ritual.

Shelly said...

Thank you all for the information. I have been asked to be lead sacristan in my parish, and am trying to learn all I can about the rubrics for the special Masses and other Liturgical functions (Baptisms, etc....).

Father G said...

Hi, Father.

The video of the Greek Orthodox priest singing "Singin' in the Rain" is an overdub.
Here is the original video:
The manner in which he is splashing the people with holy water is not really unusual among the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

rcg said...

I wonder if the renewal of vows replaces the Creed because so few attend Easter vigil?

Unknown said...

Indeed, father. I don't think any Orthodox Christian thinks the Church is totally without liturgical abuse.

Although, father, I'm interested: can you or any other commenting priest on here explain how or why this is a 'liturgical abuse'. As one commenter has pointed out, the version you posted isn't the original. In the original, the priest is chanting.

So... how is it a 'liturgical abuse'? Show me the Orthodox canon or directive which states this is an abuse.

Now, this sentence:

Roman Catholics who have joined the schismatic Orthodox branches of the true Church

Is semantically nonsensical. Unless, of course, you mean the 'true Church' (the Catholic Church) is heterodox... which is exactly what your sentence says.

This aside, your paragraph above that video makes it sound as though the only reason RC's convert to Orthodoxy is because of liturgical concerns—which is patently false. No Orthodox priest would chrismate/baptise someone who just wanted to become Orthodox for the liturgy. It just doesn't work that way.