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Water as a Religious Symbol

drinking water and religious symbolMost religions of the world include water as an important symbol.  Water has always meant life.  Without water there is no life.  Water is the building block of life.  In Christianity, for example, Jesus Christ is called the "living water" to illustrate that He is the one who can give us eternal life.  His first miracle was to turn water to wine and later he was able to calm the stormy waters of the Galilean sea.

Water also plays a central theme in religion because it represents cleansing.  Water can wash away impurities and pollutants, both  physically and spiritually.  Baptism is performed in water to symbolize cleansing the natural man of his mortal impurities, an opportunity to begin a new life, reminding us that water was present at our birth.

In Judaism, ritual washing (a mikveh) is intended to restore purity before entering the temple or taking part in spiritual services. The story of the flood in Noah's time demonstrates how even the earth needed to be cleansed or baptized from the wickedness of the world.  Moses was able to part the Red Sea in order to allow the Israelites to cross safely to dry land and away from the Egyptian army.  Parting the water was also a symbol of making a covenant with God, as is being baptized in water.

Pilgrimages to sacred rivers are important to Hindus because they represent spiritual cleansing.  Morning cleansing with water and sipping water are both basic obligations that must be performed before the traditional mark (sampradaya) can be applied to the forehead.

Muslims must also be cleansed with water before approaching their God in prayer or performing religious duties (salat.)   Muslims must wash their face, head, hands, arms and feet with water five times a day before each series of prayers.

Waterfalls and water in general are considered very sacred in Shinto, Japan's indigenous religion.   They believe spirits live in the water and that standing under a waterfall is believe to purify.

The sanctity of water in Zoroastrianism is so serious that believers are not allowed to spit or even wash their hands in a river, in order that the water remain pure.  Purity and pollution are central concerns in Zoroastrian thought and practice.   Haurvatat (meaning wholeness, health and integrity) is believed to be a feminine being and the creator of water and is represented by consecrated water used in priestly acts of worship.  On the holy day of Haurvatat and water, worshipers make offerings at water sources, such as lakes and the ocean.

Buddhists feature water in their funerals as it is poured into a bowl and placed before the monks and the dead body.  As it fills and pours over the edge of the bowl, the monks recite “As the rains fill the rivers and overflow into the ocean, so likewise may what is given here reach the departed.”

Without water, all living things will die within days.  It truly is the essence of life on our planet.  How wonderful to know that Jesus gives us living water and fills our thirst.
 


drinking clean water is essential

Drinking Clean Water is Essential to our Health and Well Being