How Is Holy Water Different From Regular Water?

Photo: Jon Santa Cruz/REX/Shutterstock.
Other than the rosary or the votive candle, holy water is probably the most recognizable Christian object — probably because, well, it looks like regular old water. But don't let its appearance fool you. Holy water is actually one of the oldest and most spiritually significant items you can find in a church.
There are actually several different types of holy water in Roman Catholicism — some, for instance, contain only consecrated salt, while others contain anointing oil, wine, and even ashes. Each blend, so to speak, has a slightly different use. Water with salt is used in regular blessings, water with oil is used in baptisms, and water with ashes and wine is used to consecrate churches.
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All of these applications reflect what holy water really represents: purification. Ceremonial cleansing in Christianity dates back to the days of Moses, and though the exact ceremonies have changed since then, the role holy water plays in worship has stayed the same. Priests sprinkle it over their congregations before beginning mass and hand out small bottles of it for them to take home, all in the hopes that the faithful remain spiritually pure.
By that same token, holy water is also used to ward off evil. Popular culture has long portrayed holy water as a weapon against vampires and the Devil — and those depictions, though obviously heightened, aren't too far off from their real-world equivalents. The Rite of Exorcism, essentially a Catholic banishing ritual, usually calls for the priest to use holy water. Depending on the demon, that's just the thing that drives it away.
So, with all that in mind, unfortunately not just anyone can make holy water. A lay person can certainly follow the steps it takes to make holy water, but it's agreed that water is only truly "holy" when it's been blessed by an ordained member of the Church. But, as we said before, it's quite common to take a container of holy water home from services with you, should you wish to keep a bottle handy for your own purposes.
And, if you're interested, there are plenty of ways to use holy water in your personal life. Whether you break it out to cleanse your office or bathe in it to promote positive energy, holy water is yet another tool you can use to banish negativity from your life. Lent may have kicked off last week, but it's never too late to start fresh.
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