· The material aspect and biblical symbolism of the vital element par excellence ·
'Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him...'
This is the season in which we do not succeed in fully understanding the value of those four adjectives that St Francis dedicated to Sister Water in his Canticle: “ utile et humile et pretiosa et casta ” [useful, and humble, and precious, and pure]”. This is a multi-faceted reality, especially at the social level, as we see constantly in the “fight for water”, in the tragedies associated with drought, in the policies themselves. Indeed it is a truly “useful and precious” element, a principle of our organism's composition and of our very survival. We shall now be content to make room for the Bible that will speak to us not only of the “material aspect” of water but also and especially of its “symbolism”.
A panorama parched by the sun, a dry steppe, a verdant oasis set in a valley, a track that fans out into lonely spaces, a f ew sparse trees and bushes: this is the usual habitat of the man of the Bible. The word majim , “water”, rings out more than 580 times in the Old Testament, just as in the New Testament the equivalent Greek term, hydor, recurs about 80 times; and approximately 1,500 verses of the Old Testament and more than 430 of the New are “bathed” in water.
A drip of water trickles ideally through the pages of the Sacred Scriptures. Not for nothing does the Bible begin with the creation of light and water (Gen 1:3-10), and with the rains and the canalization of springs (Gen 2:4-6); not for nothing does it end with “a river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 22:1). Exactly because it is at the heart of physical life, water becomes a symbol of the absolute values and of life, also in its spiritual dimension, of transcendence itself.
Water is a symbol of God par excellence, a source of life. Water is a sign of the divine word, without which we suffocate and are arid. Water, above all, is the supreme symbol of the God for whom man always thirsts.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 16, 2019
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