Is there a supernatural change to the water of baptism or to holy water that happens?


I was wondering if anyone knows if there is any teaching by either the Church or an early Church father that says whether or not there is a substantial and supernatural change to the water of baptism or to holy water. In other words, does the Holy Spirit affect a supernatural change in the water as well as in the person or only in the person that is baptized or sprinkled with the water?

The following are quotes which compare the baptismal font to the womb of the Virgin Mary. So, this is why I’m wondering if there is any supernatural change to the water itself. I realize that perhaps the Church is silent on this question.

“…the bath in the fountain of baptismal waters, the holy womb of Mother Church…” - The Roman Ritual

“…the mysteries of Christ, which the Church, our virgin mother, celebrates in the sacraments of Christian initiation, were “accomplished” in Mary, the Virgin Mother: the Spirit who sanctifies the womb of the Church, that is, the font of baptism - to bring forth children of God, sanctified Mary’s womb so that she might bring forth the firstborn of many brothers and sisters (see Hebrews 2:11-15)…” - Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“From the Christological reason for remembering the Virgin in the baptismal profession, we come to the ecclesial dimension of her commemoration in the celebration of Baptism: Mary is the icon of the Church, virgin and mother, who, by the power of the Spirit, brings Christ to new birth in the faithful. This is what the inscription in the baptistry of St John in the Lateran says: «At this font, the Church, our mother, gives birth from her virginal womb to the children she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit»” - Mary, an Icon of the Church that Baptizes in Jesus Christ

“Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I not dare to call you his mother? Much less would I dare to deny his own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ? You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? “Of Mother Church”, I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth then as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can. You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become the mothers of Christ.” - The Virgin Mary, the Church and Evangelization - St. St. Augustine of Hippo

“Among such references we like to recall that of our illustrious predecessor, Saint Leo the Great, who in a Christmas homily says: ‘The origin which [Christ] took in the womb of the Virgin He has given to the baptismal font: He has given to water what He had given to His Mother—the power of the Most High and the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk. 1:35), which was responsible for Mary’s bringing forth the Savior, has the same effect, so that water may regenerate the believer.’” - Marialis Cultus - Pope Paul VI


To be more direct with my question. Since the baptismal font is the womb of the Church, and the Virgin Mary is the icon of the Church, does the baptismal water, by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, become the water that is in the womb? To me this would be consistent with how we are born again through baptism, becoming brothers and sisters to each other with Christ as our brother and with the Virgin Mary as our Mother. Especially take a look at the last quote in the OP.


Good question. As one who has been trained as a child to accept the holy font as holy, I never thought about it. I do know my grandfather had Holy water fonts placed in all of his children’s bedrooms. Perhaps those truly possessed by Demons during the Roman Catholic rite of exorcism can explain their hatred of Holy water.


Hi livingword,
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. In baptism the washing or immersion in water “symbolizes not only death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal. Thus the two principal effects are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit.” St Thomas Aquinas says that the Holy Spirit gives to the water of baptism a spiritual power which produces the effects the washing or immersion in water symbolizes, namely, the cleansing of the soul of sins by the infusion of sanctifying grace and the grace of the virtues and gifts. God is the principle cause of grace of course, but by conferring on the water a spiritual power, the water acts as an instrumental cause in the purification of the soul and the rebirth to the life of grace; for the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. The water does not undergo a substantial change as the bread and wine do in the eucharist. God confers on the water a supernatural power as he does on the chrism in confirmation and the anointing of the sick.

St Augustine said “Whence hath water so great power, that it touches the body and cleanses the heart?” And St Bede said " Our Lord conferred a power of regeneration on the waters by the contact of His most pure body."



In the Byzantine Rite, the Greater Blessing of Holy Water (blessed only on the feast of the Epiphany) changes the properties of it.

“On the Feast of Theophany, that is the Day of the Lord’s Baptism, every year a great miracle is performed. The Holy Spirit, coming down upon the water, changes its natural properties. It becomes incorrupt, that is, it doe s not spoil, remains transparent and fresh for many years, receives the grace to heal illnesses, to drive away demons and every evil power, to preserve people and their dwellings from every danger, to sanctify various objects whether for church or home use.” - St John the Wonderworker


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