As we celebrated Easter last week you may recall that at the conclusion of the renewal of our Baptismal Vows there was that moment when you were sprinkled with water from the Baptismal Font. The choir was singing a text from the Book of Ezekiel known as the Vidi Aquam: “I beheld water proceeding from the temple, from the right side thereof. And everywhere the water of life shall come shall be healed.”
It is probable that we all might not appreciate how the Vidi Aquam text is taken from the prophet Ezekiel, chapter 47. The prophet describes a vision in which the water flows forth from under the threshold of the temple, emanating from altar. But it is no little trickle of water. The stream of water flowing from the temple becomes a huge flowing river. In the prophet’s vision this river of God represents the generosity and life giving nature of God—symbolized by a river so deep that the prophet cannot possibly cross it.
When we think of the vision of Ezekiel in view of the arid climate in which he lived, the image is of God’s giving of the gift of life. Now, as Christians, you and I should be familiar with image of living water. It should call to your mind the story of the woman at the well at Sychar. It should call to mind the instances in the Gospel of Saint John where Jesus said that he was the fountain of living water, such as is found in John, chapter 7, verse 37: where on the last day of the feast Jesus proclaimed: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” And, in case we don’t appreciate the significance of that the St. John adds: “Now, he said this about the Spirit, who those who believe in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Now, I want you to remember all this because:
In the narrative of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, the detail is given that rather than breaking the legs of the Savior, as the soldiers did in the case of the two thieves in order to hasten their death, when the soldiers determined that Jesus was dead already, one of them took his spear and lanced his side, piercing his lungs, his pericardial sack and his heart. All of which sounds like a fairly graphic image. But bear with me: it is also fairly graphic for the Risen Christ to say to Thomas: “examine these wounds, put your finger in the print of the nails, and put your hand into my side.” Not exactly a detail for the faint of heart. In that narrative of the crucifixion, the detail is added that from his side there poured forth “blood and water.”
There are physiological reasons that blood and water would pour forth from the wounded side of the Lord Jesus. But it needs to be mentioned that in these details, the Early Church Fathers saw a connection between the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the foundation of His Church. In this detail they saw the foundational moment of the church: the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist: the living water emanating from the Savior, the Blood of Christ given for the life of the world. Water proceeding from the temple. From the right side thereof. And everywhere the water of life shall come shall be healed. And therefore we join our voices with that of the no longer doubting Thomas who exclaims, “My Lord and My God.” Alleluia.