“For the whole world before you is as the least grain of the balance, and as a drop of the morning dew, that falls down upon the earth.” Wisdom 11: 23
Do you ever really think about…water? The most beautiful mysteries of Creation are often the simple things we take for granted. This may be reminiscent of a high school chemistry lesson, but the water molecule deserves a serious consideration as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord this month because water is integrated in every aspect of our daily lives and surrounding world. In fact, it is integrated in our very selves. It is life – as we know it.
Water is a substance described by the formula H2O, one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. A covalent bond is formed by the mutual sharing of electrons. The electrons of all three atoms can be thought of as moving around the entire molecule, an indwelling of sorts. One may well contemplate the similarities between that chemical description and the words we use to describe the Holy Trinity, the flow of vital activity called circuminsession, the eternal circulation of love within the internal life of God between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, distinct and real relations of one substance, the utter repose of the Three dwelling within one another.
In water, however, the electrons do not orbit around all the atoms equally or eternally. The negatively charged electrons orbit the larger oxygen atom so the oxygen end of the water molecule is more negative and the hydrogen end more positive, thus creating a polarity and exact, consistent bond angle of 104.5°. This order allows the water molecules to attract, negative end to positive, so that water can do all the phenomenal things it does as a liquid, solid or gas. The liquid has a strong surface tension that allows the capillary action necessary for water to move through the soil and biological systems. Water crystallizes hexagonally as a solid, because of the precise bond angle, to form intricate crystalline patterns or to form ice that is less dense than the liquid. Imagine how the planet would be affected if bodies of ice sank to the bottom of oceans, lakes, rivers and streams and the ecosystem was interrupted? Atmospheric water vapor can form micro-sized droplets in the atmosphere and because they are perfectly spherical, visible light is refracted from a multitude of them, promisingly into perfectly arched rainbows that appear to stretch across the horizon.
Water is the end product of the combustion of hydrogen and scientists believe that most of the water in the universe is produced by in the strong wind of dust and gas during the birth of stars. Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and it is absolutely necessary for all known forms of life to exist. This tasteless, odorless liquid is known as the universal solvent, dissolving salts, sugars, acids, bases, and organic materials required to sustain life in exactly the right amounts.
Water makes up about 60% of an adult human body and 75% of a newborn human body. To cleanse the planet and all who depend on it, water cycles. The hydrogen and oxygen atoms that form surface water evaporate to the atmosphere as molecules, condense again and fall back to the surface as rain or snow, dissolving all kinds of things and moving other matter around. But matter is never created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another.
Because water continuously cycles on Earth to cleanse it, and has been cycling since the beginning of time, no two histories of any hydrogen or oxygen atom that make up water can ever be exactly the same. It is an impossibility of time and space. They move around the world, each on a different path, and have for all time.
A newborn baby contains so many water molecules, on the order of 9 x 10^25, that it would take three billion years counting one billion molecules per second to count them all, and every single one of those water molecules, perfectly ordered in exactly the same way to the fraction of a degree and electron density, is made of the most ancient primal matter. [i] We all are; everything is.
In each of us right now, there are hydrogen and oxygen atoms that came, allegedly, from the birth of a star. And during their histories, the atoms that form the water in us could have been part of an iceberg far away or they could have been part of the untold trillions of snowflakes whose beauty melts unseen in the peaks of the Colorado Rocky Mountains; they could have composed the body of an extinct and exotic ancient sea creature we’ll never discover; they could have circulated in our ancestor’s body generations ago or they could have washed the floor of an evil ruler; they could have been part of a production facility in China last decade or they could have treated a dying child’s wounds; they could have been swept up in the surge of a natural disaster last year or they could have been in the clouds that inspired a searching soul; they could have been used to water a neighbor’s lawn last month or they could come from the water you drink right now. And after those atoms occupy your body, they’ll go on to do other things – their path changed by your existence – willed by God.
It’s entirely possible that some matter that composes your body was once in the Jordan River as the first Christians were baptized. Maybe it even touched the body of Christ two millennia ago. Only God knows these things, but because God has revealed to us that He has ordered creation “in measure, number and weight,” (Wisdom 11:20) we know we are all connected in ways we cannot even fully express, a physical indwelling and circuminsession of matter. Thus in a very real sense, the cleansing baptismal waters of Christ rain down on us every day.
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[i] Calculation is based on an 8 pound baby, 6 lbs. of which are water, which is 2,700 grams, which is 9.1E25 molecules because the molecular weight of water is (16+2) 18 grams which means that is the mass of a mole, or 6.0E23, molecules and thus 1 gram is 1/18th of that number, or 3.3E22 molecules (2,700 x 3.3E22 = 9.1E25). Counting at 1,000,000,000 per second, one can count to 3.2E16 in one year (1E9x60x60x24x365) and it would take almost 3,000,000,000 years to reach 9.1E25 (9.1E25/3.2E16=2.9E9).
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