Published Sun, 12/12/2021 by

“With joy you shall draw water from the wells of salvation”

  • In the 1980s I lived for 5 years in an old Victorian building, the former vicarage of Holy Trinity, Ilkeston
  • It was eventually pulled down to make way for two bungalows.  When the builders were at work, they discovered no fewer than 3 forgotten wells dating from Victorian times – possibly earlier.  
  • The first well was certainly a surprise.  The JCB clearing the ground fell into it and got stuck, holding up work till it could be pulled out.
  • Quarter of a mile away stood the Rutland Hotel, site of a former Spa in Regency times, which gave its name to Bath Street (the town’s main shopping street)
  • Ilkeston once hoped to rival Buxton as a spa town.  Indeed, its mineral waters were renowned for their healing properties, curing numerous ailments including gout.
  • Unfortunately, coal mining in the area put a stop to all that: the extraction of coal disturbed the aquifer (the underground source of the spa’s water).  To their mutual disadvantage, the waters flooded the mines and the mine works syphoned off the health-promoting waters.  Of the two, the spa came off worst.
  • In many areas there are natural aquifers which still provide good water.  Depending on the geography, they give rise to springs (like one at Hazlewood, which one parishioner tells me has never run dry in her lifetime – and she has just turned a 100! 
  • Elsewhere, they can be accessed by digging wells.  
  • In many places water is there below the ground, freely available – as it was in Ilkeston:  all you need do is dig!
  • More often than not the water from these aquifers is very pure – as a landlord of the Brunswick discovered in the centre of Derby several years ago – proceeding to use it (as landlords did of old) to brew beer

In the responsorial psalm (from chapter 12 of the prophet Isaiah) we read:

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation”

  • Salvation of course signifies healing (as in the word salve) – Divine healing
  • As in former times, to access the wells of salvation all we have to do is dig
  • To make time to clear a space for God in our daily lives
  • To make the effort to pierce beneath the trivia of everyday superficiality
  • To shovel away the topsoil of our worldliness 
  • The stones and rocks of our hurts, disappointments and failures
  • To persevere in pressing deeper into the ground of our being
  • In search for God himself, who is always there for us, as a pure, simple, life-giving presence, bringing healing, forgiveness and love
  • Our experience of this gracious presence of God, freely available to all, is what Isaiah means by ‘drawing water from the wells of salvation’ 
  • We access it not of course by digging literally but rather by making an effort to be present to the deeper reality of things and to the depths of our own hearts – where the spirit of God invites us to taste of the healing waters of his love, freely flowing for all who seek him
  • So often we’ve let our hearts be polluted by the poisoned wells of this world
  • We’ve learnt to imbibe worldly values, which seemingly promise to quench our inner thirst, but instead prove to be brackish waters, making our spirits ill
  • The wells of the Saviour however bring joy, lasting happiness and eternal life
  • The time and effort spent searching for them is amply rewarded – through Christian meditation, contemplative prayer; open-hearted attentiveness to the presence of God in nature; by reading carefully and praying with the Scriptures; through faithfully frequenting the sacraments; through self-forgetful service of the needs of others
  • All of these are ways in which God communicates to us unfailing waters of divine life and love
  • Truly quenching our thirst – they paradoxically leave us desiring more: more of God himself, the only one who can satisfy our eternal longing 

“With joy you shall draw water from the wells of salvation”

  • Through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, his Word-made-flesh, God has done all that is necessary to make these wells accessible to us
  • Our part is simply to beseech him to disclose his presence to us in grace 
  • And then to persevere, till we discover it, within us and around us, speaking to our hearts


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