Question: Can you explain the Epistle read on Low Sunday [I John 5: 4-10]. What did Saint John mean about “water,” and “blood,” and “Spirit”? (F.L.)
Answer: Part of the epistle is given below.
Saint John writes to demonstrate that Jesus did far more than establish an ethical system associated with the Baptism (the “water”) of John the Baptist and based on the keeping of the Commandments. To be sure, or Lord did this, but, even more importantly, He offered Himself up in sacrifice (the “blood”) to atone for the sins of the human race and to restore mankind to friendship of God’s family. As a constant bond of this friendship, the Father and the Son sent the Holy Ghost (the “Spirit”) to dwell in the souls of those in the state of grace.
Under Jewish law a statement had to be corroborated by two or three witnesses to have legal effect. It appears that Saint John has this requirement figuratively met by the testimony of the “water,” and “blood,” and “Spirit.” There is some question as to whether or not verse 5:7 was written by Saint John or added later—it is found in the Vulgate, but not in the early Greek texts. It may be a later writer’s attempt to reinforce Saint John’s idea of the three witnesses by naming the Three more who witness in heaven.
In any event, those who “overcome the world” are those who believe in Jesus Christ, who keep His Commandments, and who participate in His graces through the Sacraments. And, in fact, many spiritual writers go directly to identifying the “water,” and “blood,” and “Spirit” as the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation