Vidi Aquam at the Episcopal Cafe

My new piece is up at the Cafe. I thought I’d do a piece on one of the liturgical texts of Easter and settled on the Vidi Aquam. For a long time it’s been one of my favorite Easter texts precisely because so much biblical and theological material is packed into such a small space. So, I took a moment to unpack it.

This work is the kind of thing I love to do—demonstrating how Scripture, liturgy, hermeneutics, sacramental theology and ritual practice combine in one apparently throw-away text. And yet, so much of our liturgy is like this, deep and thickly textured.

10 thoughts on “Vidi Aquam at the Episcopal Cafe

  1. josh

    Derek, I wasn’t meaning to diss you on the CafĂ© (nor to promote you to a collar, if a promotion that would be). I was very close to Howard Galley; he’s one of three patron saints of my website (and my life). I don’t dispute your analysis, but I’ve never heard anyone call him a Protestant before, and it doesn’t fit his spirituality. I don’t really think Protestants are that concerned with Ceremonies of the Eucharist, do you? He was doing something new (and old) for the Broad Church with that book, and it very much fit his Prayer Book agenda to put the Eucharist front and center every Sunday morning.

    Understand him in his time; a sweet fellow, deeply faithful, an incredible talent pedagogically. Being in the classroom with him was like seeing a new show open on Broadway every night: Bernadette Peters! James Earl Jones! Julie Andrews! Jason Robards!

    Howard Galley was their equal, pouring out his passion in an incredible performance every night. I’d kill to have those times back; now I’m just a keeper of the flame.

    He really would have knocked over all those drag queens, y’know; completely in love with Reformed Catholicism in the Anglo-American Church. Thank you for letting me remember.

  2. Derek Olsen

    No offense taken, Josh!

    I do understand what you’re saying about him and his historical location. And I do recognize his work. But his literally is the most Protestant liturgical guide on my shelf. I fear some of my friends use his “Of Practices Not Recommended” (62ff.) as a checklist for what *to* do. All expect item l., of course; concelebration is a no-no…

  3. Caelius Spinator

    Josh’s quote on Capt. Galley at the Cafe made my week. It’s a lesson to us that the book is not always the true child of the man.

    I’ve always heard echos of Vidi Aquam in Psalm 46:4 and never known quite why. But it always comes to me whenever I say it.

    I suspect there were various artificial/natural streams on Mt. Zion at various periods of history. (Necessary for the business of the Temple.) One of them I bet would have a bit of a red tinge from that business.

  4. John-Julian, OJN

    Interesting that twenty years ago when selecting readings for the commemoration of our Order’s Founding Day (December 30), I chose Ezekiel 47:1-9, 10b-12! I have always loved the idea that the longer it lasts and the farther it goes, the deeper it gets!

    And I’m also quietly “suggesting” (to the degree one can under Holy Obedience) the introduction of Asperges in our chapel.

    Thanks for a good piece, Derek.

  5. Derek Olsen

    Caelius, me too on Ps 46. Flowing water in the desert wastes is such a primal symbol of life with God. Frank Herbert in particular informed my thought on before I’d had experience of what real desert wilderness was like.

    Father, yes–the multiplying abundance was one of the things that hit me and stayed with me the first time I remember encountering this passage in college.

  6. John Robison

    While the Asperges is not a practice of the Episcopal Carmel, per se, Teresa of Avila recommends in her Constitutions the use of Holy/Lustrous Water all the time. It was sprinkled copiously in procession after the First Mass in the new Carmel and during the dedications of the Guest House and main building. It’s also a part of the rogation procession around the Gardens. There is also a tradition of the Prioress blessing each person as they leave after Compline.

  7. Michael Henderson


    I just discovered your website through my wife. I am an Episcopal priest in a little outpost of Kentucky, and once was a Benedictine Monk at Christ in the Desert. One of the great influences of my life has been Aelred Squire, who was my mentor and spiritual friend. We should talk.

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