Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

The Patron Saint of a Drop of Water

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 18, 2023

It’s difficult to identify anything more insignificant than a drop of water. However, within the context of the Mass, a single drop of water has more significance than the great cathedrals or modern skyscrapers.

During the Offertory prayers, the priest [or an assisting deacon] places a drop of water in the wine and silently prays: “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 expanse of wine disperses a single drop of water that, a few minutes later, becomes the Sacred Blood of Jesus at the time of the Consecration. The mystery of Transubstantiation glorifies that tiny drop of water in union with the wine. The drop of water helps us understand John the Baptist and his ministry.

The Liturgy of the Word, the first of the two liturgy components of the Mass, is like John the Baptist. The Liturgy of the Word prepares us for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Word proclaims repentance because the Kingdom of God is at hand in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

With the Sign of the Cross, we place ourselves in the presence of God. We confess our sins as we recite the Confiteor, “I confess.” Although we must receive absolution for mortal sins in Confession, the forgiveness at Mass ratifies the Sacrament of Penance and forgives our venial sins.

After the absolution, we continue and, come Christmas, give glory to God by singing the angels’ hymn at Bethlehem. We hear the Word of God, listen to the priest’s remarks, and renew our Baptismal promises as we recite the Creed.

As the proclamation of John anticipates, the Liturgy of the Word fulfills and replaces the worship of the Synagogue. The Liturgy of the Word accents our humanity and our response to a “terrestrial” or “of-this-world” liturgy. Just as John was the precursor of Jesus, the Liturgy of the Word is the precursor of the heavenly liturgy: the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Just as Jesus fulfills and exalts the ministry of John, the Liturgy of the Eucharist fulfills and exalts the Liturgy of the Word. The greatness of John the Baptist lies in his understanding of his insignificance without Jesus.

The sacrificial Liturgy of the Eucharist fulfills and replaces the Jewish Temple Sacrifice. It begins with the gifts of bread and wine, gifts of God’s goodness, fruit of the earth, and “work of human hands.” In this Offertory prayer, we acknowledge our cooperation with God’s gifts and anticipate our union with Jesus in Holy Communion.

That little drop of water grows in significance. The Preface of the Mass provides reasons for our duty to express thanks, and we respond in prayerful union with the “Angels and all the Saints.” During the “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord” the Mass becomes heavenly. We enter into the celestial hymnody of the angels. But we remain rooted on earth, with the Mass reminding us that we join Jesus on the road to Calvary.

The Consecration is an unbloody sacramental representation of the Cross, the Sacrifice of Jesus. Bread and wine—with that single drop of water dispersed in the wine—become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. In sacramental union with Jesus, we dare to address our heavenly Father directly: “Our Father, who art in heaven….” And we receive Holy Communion, completing our physical and spiritual union with Jesus that began with the symbol of a drop of water.

In a sense, John the Baptist is the patron saint of the Liturgy of the Word and that drop of water. He is the precursor to Jesus. John the Baptist didn’t have an exaggerated self-image. John proclaimed repentance to prepare the way of the Lord and the Kingdom of God. He denied that he was the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet. He knew he was not worthy to untie the sandal strap of the man that followed him. John means little without Jesus. He explains, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn. 3:30) The Liturgy of the Word means little without the Liturgy of the Eucharist. John is as insignificant as that drop of water.

But with Jesus, John’s ministry means everything. John explains he baptized in the water of repentance, but he bears witness to Him Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. The Liturgy of the Word is like the baptism of repentance. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is like the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Repentance comes to fulfillment in the Eucharist. St. John the Baptist is like that tiny drop of water of his humanity immersed in the wine of Jesus during the Offertory but before the glory of the Cross and Resurrection. John brings us to the precipice of the Kingdom of God.

Of John’s humility, Jesus says, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.” But he adds, “Yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Lk. 7:28) Like John, we also are like that little drop of water. The drop of water the priest places in the chalice at the time of the Offertory represents our humanity. We also are dispersed in the wine, the work of human hands. Apart from Jesus, we are lost and insignificant. But unlike John—at least until the time of his martyrdom—in union with the wine, we are sacramentally united in Jesus at the time of Transubstantiation. We become greater than John because we are born of the spirit, born into the mystery of the risen Lord, and fulfill our unity with Him in Holy Communion! In union with Jesus, we enter into the glory of the Kingdom of God.

The single drop of water dispersed in the expanse of wine reminds us of our dignity in Jesus that exceeds Moses and all the Prophets, including the greatest of them all, John the Baptist.

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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