As we enter Holy Week, memories of Easters past tend to occupy our minds. Church on Easter morning, pretty hats and newly bought clothing, along with the arrival of dearly loved relatives, were always something to which I looked forward each year.
But, before that, came the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday).
I remember, as a very young child, going to Easter week services with my parents and being surprised when I went to bless myself with Holy Water but found a dry font.
I had been taught to appreciate the value of holy water and its frequent use. Many saints and religious have emphasized the use of Holy Water to ward off evil. Just one example is Saint Teresa of Avila, who wrote that she used it to repel evil and temptations, but there are many, many others.
So why were the holy water fonts in our church empty on these three days?
Well, there was a reason for that:
Each year during the Easter Triduum the practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on those days when the Eucharist is not celebrated any where in the world. At the Easter Vigil Mass, the water will be blessed and the fonts will be filled again.
Note: In the past some pastors expanded the practice of empty holy water fonts to include all the days of Lent. No doubt this was done with good intent…to remind people of the dryness of Lent, but in fact, this is not the accepted practice in the Church. To correct this error, on March 14, 2020 the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship stated: “The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent.”
Editors’ note: During the Covid-19 pandemic, some parishes removed holy water from their fonts as a precaution. It is the opinion of this editor that removing the holy water to prevent the spread of an airborne virus that does not survive in water was an absurd thing to do. Obviously, many did not agree with my position. What are your thoughts on the subject?