Over the past few months I have been fortunate enough to assist at two parishes that retain the rite of sprinkling before the principal Sunday Mass. One of these is a parish that celebrates an Extraordinary Form Missa Cantata, the other is a church of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.
Whilst the Rite for the Blessing and Sprinkling of Water appears in the Missale Romanum of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, it forms part of the celebration of the Mass in a way that is different from the older form and the new Ordo Missae for use in the Personal Ordinariates. The English translation of the rubrics in the Ordinary Form reads, “From time to time on Sundays, especially in Easter Time, instead of the customary Penitential Act, the blessing and sprinkling of water may take place”.
Here, then, there is certainly a clear sense that this act is a ‘memorial of baptism’, but it seems that some of the wider symbolism of the ceremony is missed by this relocation. For example, whilst the penitential nature of the rite is elevated – no bad thing – this happens at the risk of reducing the richness of the sprinkling’s baptismal symbolism, because we move from an act of communal renewal to one that is explicitly penitential. We cannot confess the sins of another, and so the communitarian nature of the action is diminished. The explicit link between the Lord’s Day and the renewal of the memory of baptism is also surely important, and this is somewhat lost if the ceremony is only to take place ‘from time to time’, or only during the paschal season.