Expert Answer Forum

Washing of hands after offertory QUESTION from Ray Hebert December 5, 2000 I know it is the option of the priest not to wash his hands after the offertory. Our pastor does this at all Masses and this is not liked by members of my family and other parishioners. Help?
ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on December 8, 2000 Dear Ray,
The washing of the hands (the lavabo) is not optional.
The priest then washes his hands as an expression of his desire to be cleansed within. [GIRM #52] After the prayer, Lord God, we ask you to receive, or after the incensation, the priest washes his hands at the side of the altar and inaudibly says the prescribed prayer as a minister pours the water. [Ibid. # 106]
Clarifications and Interpretations of the GIRM: 52. Query: May the rite of washing the hands be omitted from the celebration of Mass?
Reply: In no way. 1.Both the GIRM (nos. 52, 106, 222) and the Order of Mass (with a congregation, no. 24; without a congregation no. 18) show the Lavabo to be one of the prescribed rites in the preparation of the gifts. A rite of major importance is clearly not at issue, but it is not to be dropped since its meaning is: an expression of the (priest's ) desire to be cleansed within (GIRM no. 52). In the course of the Consilium's work on the Order of Mass, there were a number of debates on the value and the place to be assigned to the Lavabo, e.g., on whether it should be a rite done in silence or with an accompanying text; there was, however, unanimity that it must be retained. Even though there has been no practical reason for the act of handwashing since the beginning of the Middle Ages, its symbolism is obvious and understood by all (see SC art. 34). The rite is a usage in all liturgies of the West. 2.The Constitution on the Liturgy (SC art. 37-40) envisions ritual adaptations to be suggested by the conferences of bishops and submitted to the Holy See. Such adaptations must be based on serious reasons, for example, the specific culture and viewpoint of a people, contrary and unchangeable usages, the practical impossibility of adapting some new rite that is foreign to the genius of a people, and so on. 3.Apart from the envisioned exemptions from the rubrics and differing translations of texts (Concilium, Instr. 25 Jan. 1969), the Order of Mass is presented as a single unit whose general structure and individual components must be exactly respected. Arbitrary selectiveness on the part of an individual or a community would soon result in the ruin of a patiently and thoughtfully constructed work: Not 6 (1970) 38-39, no. 27. [Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship]
In Christ,
John Miskell
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