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Spirituality through the Liturgical Seasons (47)

  • Washing Hands / Purification
    Author: The Steering Committee of the HKSKH Church Policy Paper - The Working Group for Discipleship Training

As the congregation focuses on the bread and wine on the Holy Table after the preparation of the Holy Table during the Ministry of the Sacrament, regardless of whether the Celebrant incenses, we see the liturgical act of washing (Lavabo in Latin) of the Celebrant, with a server's assistance, washes his/her hands.

It is easy for us to mistake the act of Lavabo as something that only pertains to the Celebrant, while the rest of us are merely spectators. However, liturgical development had turned this act that once served a practical purpose into one that, rich in symbolism, focuses on its spiritual meaning and reminder. While washing his/her hands, the Celebrant silently prays, ‘Lord, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.’ (Psalm 51:2)(NRSV). The prayer is to remind the Celebrant and all present the need to be fully prepared for what is to immediately follow: The Great Thanksgiving / The Eucharistic Prayer. According to liturgy in Ethiopia, the Celebrant would even fling the water on the washed hands at the congregation ─ a gesture meant to warn all that they must first purify themselves before entering the great thanksgiving ─ evoking another Psalm: ‘I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord.’ (Psalm 26:6)(NRSV).

Therefore, all participating the Sacrament do not merely watch the liturgical act of Lavabo, we are a very part of it, not spectators. We too have to be cleansed and purified before we respond to the Celebrant, ‘We lift them to the Lord.’, ‘It is right to give him thanks and praise.’


  1. When the Celebrant washes his/her hands, what are you focusing on? Knowing that washing of the hands pertains to all of us, how will you prepare yourself from now on when you see the washing?
  2. ‘Cleansed hands and purified heart" is more than just our preparation for the Holy Communion; it is our response to the merciful God. How do you plan to put this into practice in your daily living?

Remark: the above content is source from "Spirituality through the Liturgical Seasons" of the Provincial website.  For details, please click here.

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Pray for the Church (12/2016)

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