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.
Isn't it strange how many Christians, who take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (they are in no hurry), in following the sleepy rhythm of their professional affairs, in eating and recreation (no hurry here either), find themselves rushed and want to rush the Priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy Sacrifice of the Altar?
- St. Josemaría Escrivá