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PhatCatholic wrote: "Ultimately, to reject the effectiveness of holy water against demonic forces is not just to ignore the biblical witness, but to also essentially discredit 2,000 years of Christian witness and experience."I'd like to be able to give you more evidence from the Fathers but information on the internet is limited and the books I need won't be available to me until after the deadline for this answer. My local library at home is sorely inadequate when it comes to researching this question, but a few books are on the way.
But, as PC admitted, there is no Scriptural example of "holy water" being effective against demonic forces, nor is there any other Christian testimony I could locate to the efficacy of "holy water" among the church fathers before the eighth century (leaving aside the “Apostolic Constitutions”). Have I missed something or is the experience and witness really not 2,000 years old?
At first I was trying to work with what little is available to me, which is why it has taken me so long to respond. But, I finally had to just accept the fact that more information on the use of holy water in the early Church will have to wait. Perhaps I can give you more information in response to a subsequent question, or in my rebuttal post.
That said, the witness of the Apostolic Constitutions shows that the practice is at least 1600 years old, and that's certainly nothing to scoff at. Also, note that, in the Catholic Church, the period of antiquity ends with St. John Damascene (d. 749 AD) in the East and with St. Gregory the Great (d AD 604) or St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636 AD) in the West. So, my citation of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England (which he wrote in 731 AD) falls within that timeframe as well. However, my point with the statement you quoted was not to record, down to the very year, exactly how long holy water has been in use. I was simply trying to show that such use is an ancient practice and that to dismiss it is to ignore the experience and witness of hundreds (thousands?) of individuals who have seen with their own eyes the power that holy water has had over demonic forces. Is that really something you are prepared to do?