Excerpt: Washing the Hands

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 4:19 PM

Washing the Hands

Before anything else, the priest[1] washes his hands, not in imitation of Pilate (cf. Matt. 27:24), but of the Levitcal priesthood (cf. Ex. 30:19):
Da, Dómine, virtútem mánibus meis ad abstergéndum omnem máculam; ut sine pollutióne mentis et córporis váleam tibi servíre.

Give, Lord, virtue to my hands,                                                    Ps. 29:11
to be cleansed from all stain,                                       2 Sam. 22:21; Jas. 4:8
that I might serve you with purity of mind and body.                  1 Tim. 4:12
With these words, the priest does not ask for his hands to have the power to cleanse from sin, but rather he asks God to cleanse his hands from the stain of sin, so that he may celebrate the Mass with pure intentions.  This first prayer, said before the priest has put on any vestment, orients his mind and heart toward virtue and purity.

[1] These prayers, up to and including the prayer for the stole, are said by both priests and deacons.