One of the curious things that some people notice during the Mass (although many may miss it) is the way the priest pours some drops of water into the wine at the Preparation of the Gifts. What is this all about?
In ancient times wine did not come in cases, twelve bottles to a case, with corks to seal the bottles. Rather, wine came either in wineskins or in jars. Excavations of the Mediterranean seabed have found ships with jars of wine. Back then, it was not unusual to dilute the wine with water because the wine had a thicker consistency and a higher alcohol content than most wine today.
So the ritual in which the priest (or sometimes the deacon) pours water into the wine derives from ancient practices and customs. Other rituals of the Mass have similar origins.
The Church has seen in this simple gesture something more, a way to consider God’s involvement with us in Jesus. Consider what the priest says.
“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
The pouring of a few drops of water thus becomes a way for us to recall the foundation of our Catholic faith, the incarnation, when the Son of God becomes one of us. We proclaim this in the Creed: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” So this profound teaching of our faith is echoed in this simple gesture, just as it should be echoed in all dimensions of our Catholic life.
Christ has come in the flesh. Christ has come to us. Christ has mixed himself with our simple and humble selves. God continues to come into our midst in everyday life.
Have you missed the gesture of pouring water into wine at Mass? Might you be missing other gestures and symbols? How do the little gestures of the Mass (bows, kisses, hand movements) add to the experience for you?
Try to imagine the daily, human life of Jesus as he was growing up with Mary and Joseph in Nazareth. How might your daily life reflect his? Think of a change or two you could make in your own daily routine to better reflect God’s personal intermingling with your life.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women. And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.