Penance, But Joyful (and Wet!)

The Sprinkling Rite

What Not to Miss

  • If you're experiencing the Sprinkling Rite, odds are it's Easter Time. Alleluia! We are celebrating Christ's triumph over death, which catechumens have just shared in through their Baptism at the Easter Vigil Mass. This rite gives all of us a chance to recall the grace we received at Baptism.
  • While this rite is still penitential in nature, it is also joyful. We need to be cleansed with holy water because of our sins, but we are also recalling how Christ freed us from our sins in the Sacrament of Baptism.
  • The antiphon commonly sung during Easter Time is taken from the Old Testament Prophet Ezekiel's vision of water flowing from the Temple to refresh and cleanse the land. It also recalls the blood and water that flowed from the side of Christ on the Cross, which is the source of our salvation and specifically of the Sacrament of Baptism.
  • Aspergillum means "little sprinkler" in Latin. It is the liturgical implement commonly used for this rite. Some resemble leafy branches to recall the hyssop branch mentioned in one of the options for the antiphon. Hyssop was used to apply the sacrificial lambs' blood to the Hebrews' doorposts at the Passover, as well as by Old Testament priests to sprinkle water to cleanse the unclean. All this shows that Jesus' blood cleanses us from spiritual uncleanness.

Next Time You Go to Mass...

  • Thank God for cleansing you from your sins when you were baptized and ask for the forgiveness of your recent sins.
  • It's common to make the Sign of the Cross when you are sprinkled with holy water, though this is not actually mandated in the missal.
  • Children often love this rite—we get wet during Mass! Take this as an opportunity to renew your childlike joy in Christ's gift of salvation.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.