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Tim Pickett
25 June 2010
Water and ritual ablutions have always played a significant role in many religious practices, virtually all major religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism etc – emphasize the importance of water, its specific purifying force, ability to transmit divine energy to the humans. The outer forms of ablution practices differ from religion to religion in certain details, but the main component, i.e. contact with the holy element, is the same. The Christians go on pilgrimage to the Jordan, the Hindus to the Ganges, an Orthodox Christian priest immerses a baby into the water during the sacrament of Baptism, a Jew plunges into the mikveh, a Muslim performs wudhu, a Catholic priests pours blessed waters onto the baby – all those rites have the same purpose, and it is purifying oneself from ritual pollution, washing off the sins, cleansing the body and the soul.
Article 1213 of the Catholic Catechism declares that baptism is “the gateway to life in the Spirit,” and “regeneration through water in the word” (“Catechism”). The Lutheran Augsburg Confession also shares the same view emphasizing this sacrament to be “necessary to salvation” (The Book of Concord, 34). The significance of the Christian view is that the oblation is performed only once and is valid throughout all the life of a person.
In the Jewish history, we encounter the practice of ritual washing since the epoch of Abraham and Moses (The Bible, Gen. 18.4; Exod. 30.21). John the Baptist was baptizing not only the ordinary people, but also the Pharisees (Matt. 3.5-8). Modern observant Jews perform netilat yadayim after waking up in the morning and every time they are going to have meals. The water washes off the tum’a from the hands.
The Hindus have been revering water since the times immemorial until nowadays, for in their view “[w]ithin the Waters […] dwell all balms that heal / And Agni, he who blesseth all,” the holy element removes the sins and makes the people happier (The Rig Veda, book 1, hymn 23). The Muslims perform the ritual ablution also for the reason of being pure before the eyes of Allah and worked out detailed rules of cleansing oneself of the defilements (“Wudhu”).
Thus, all the listed religions regard washing as a very important act where the physical cleansing comes along with the spiritual one. The soul needs to be washed the same as the body, and in the special rites the believers get a chance to wash off both physical and metaphysical filth from their bodies and souls.

Works Cited
The Bible: Authorized King James Version. Ed. Robert Carroll, Stephen Prickett. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.
The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Eds. Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert. Transl. Charles P. Arand. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000.
“Catechism of the Catholic Church.” The Holy See Archive. Web. 25 June 2010. .
“The Rig Veda.” Trans. T.H. Griffith. Sacred Texts. Web. 25 June 2010. .
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art: A Brief History. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006.
“Wudhu.” Al-Shia.org. Web. 25 June 2010. .