When the priest, and also the people, come to Mass their purpose is to offer a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. The sacrifice of a humble and contrite heart, which is the most pleasing offering to God, as we see in Psalm 51 (v. 17). We do this by joining our lives to the offering of Jesus Christ to the Father which the priest offers on the altar, acknowledging our weakness and need for God to be the strength in our lives.
The priest washes his hands as an outward expression of the cleansing of his heart and mind which he asks of God so that he may worthily offer his service in the place of Christ, the one High Priest. Having asked for cleansing, the priest has a renewed strength to go to the altar of God and celebrate the sacred mysteries.
Often there is a special sink in the sacristy for the washing of the priest’s hands with the prayer posted nearby. The picture included here is a picture of this special sink in the sacristy of the English Seminary in Rome.
In the next few articles we will look at each vestment, it’s meaning, and the prayer that is said as it is put on. Check back over the next few weeks for subsequent articles on the liturgical vestments.
If you’ve never been in the sacristy while the priest is preparing for mass, you may be asking yourself what it would look like. While there are many things to prepare, like the chalice, paten, hosts, water and wine, and other items, the priest usually dons his vestments as the last thing to do before mass begins.
While he is vesting, there are prayers that he says which accompany each vestment, calling to mind the character of the vestment and the symbolic meaning that shows the identity of Christ which he has been given at his ordination. These prayers help him to remember the sacred duty he is about to undertake, and aid him in being recollected to not just ‘do mass’ or another liturgical event, but to pour out his heart and commit his mind to the sacred offering he is about to make to the Father in the place of Jesus Christ, whose identity he has by ordination.
In the next few articles we will look at each vestment, it’s meaning, and the prayer that is said as it is put on.
Check back over the next few weeks for subsequent articles on the liturgical vestments.