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Source: (consider it) Thread: Hand-Washing at Communion
Eirenist
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# 13343

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Our Vicar is currently on extended sick leave. Her practice at the Eucharist is to formally wash her fingers immediately before consecration of the elements (which seems odd as she has already handled the communion breads). I think this practice is called the Lavabo. In her absence, a retired priest from the evangelical tradition is helping out by taking the occasional Communion service. I notice that he does not wash his hands at this point. I asked him the reason for this difference in practice but he only said that 'it was not his tradition'. Can any shipmate enlighten me as to the reason for this divergence?

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Jengie jon

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does this answer your question. I suspect only partially correct. In that now I think about it, it is done immediately before the consecration. The cleanliness is therefore not about the spread of contagious substances but about coming into contact with the holy. This would be consistent with the prayer offered. It is a marker that something of special sanctity is about to take place.

Jengie

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Bishops Finger
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Yes, I think you may be right.

At Our Place, Father Helping-Us-Out-A-Lot, who is of the evangelical tradition, is quite happy to do the lavabo, as is our custom.

In fact, he is extremely gracious about coping with our Carflick ritchool, and swings a mean thurible come the Offertory...

IJ

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Angloid
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I must have led a sheltered life, but until I encountered my current laid-back-low church I took it for granted that this was normal practice. It's certainly not confined to self-identifying anglo-catholic places.

Though in the light of various epidemics and hygiene scares it might make sense to use sanitiser as well as water, and perform the lavabo before and not after handling the elements. Then if you incense them you'll need to do it all again!

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Enoch
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At one church I know, when there was a flu' epidemic, the celebrant very visibly showed themselves to be washing their hands with sanitiser and also carried out a conventional 'liturgical washing'. I asked, in those circumstances, which washing was the real one?

To cite something aired on another thread, if others say you should not have more than one collect, shouldn't one also say one shouldn't have more than one washing?

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Ecclesiastical Flip-flop
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Lavabo is Latin for I will wash. This takes place with the washing of hands at the offertory immediately after handling the bread and the wine. If this takes place slightly later in the service (as I understand it) then it is a local non-conventional variation.

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Forthview
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At least in the Roman rite the ceremony known as the Lavabo takes place after the Offertory and before the Eucharistic Prayer.
In early times the faithful would bring various gifts to the altar for the use of the community. Amongst this would be bread and wine which the clergy would then use for the offering of bread and wine,with the celebrant ritually washing his hands before proceeding with the most sacred part of the rite.
For many centuries the general gifts for the community were replaced simply with the offering of money for the work of the Church and this is where the collection is taken generally in the Roman rite.
In the revised rite of Paul VI an offertory procession of gifts,at the very least bread and wine ,is an integral part of the Mass.

Lavabo inter innocentes manus meas .... were the traditional words said by the celebrant, though nowadays in the revised rite they are :Wash me ,Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin

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Gee D
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St Sanity follows the practice Forthview describes. If there's a flu epidemic, those distributing the Bread will use sanitiser as well, but before the lavabo which has its symbolic elements well as the practical.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
St Sanity follows the practice Forthview describes. If there's a flu epidemic, those distributing the Bread will use sanitiser as well, but before the lavabo which has its symbolic elements well as the practical.

Yebbut. I think you may be missing the point of my question. If there's an actual washing which is taking place for actual cleansing purposes, that is to say, non-symbolic reasons, doesn't that absorb any symbolic one and make a second liturgical washing a bit of a nonsense, i.e. nugatory?

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Gee D
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Apart from the need to remove the smell of the sanitiser, I'd say that the usual lavabo is still needed. The washing is to prepare the priest for the consecration of the elements. Sanitiser does not do that.

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Enoch
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Would it if he or she said 'Wash me, Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin' while squeezing from the little bottle?

I'm not just being facetious. I'm asking from the standpoint of the congregation. It seems to me that they are entitled, and right, to be confused by seeing what appears conceptually to be the same thing, done twice.

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fletcher christian

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I was taught that the lavabo is in part symbolic of Pilate washing his hands, so this with other ritualised elements, is a playing out of the Passion as part of the Eucharistic action.

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Staretz Silouan

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Eirenist
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Understood, but why, in the Evangelical/Low Church tradition does one NOT wash the hands?

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Anselmina
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I grew up in the Church of Ireland and had never seen this done or even heard of it before I started attending a more catholicky Anglican church in England, where they had vestments and candles as well - again things never seen by me in any CofI worship up to that time.

I do the ritual washing after preparing the table and before the Eucharistic prayer. But I do see it as ritual, rather than hygiene. And as I don't have anyone to turn my pages for me (never did!) naturally I touch the altar book as I progress through the prayer. To say nothing of switching the body-mic off etc.

It was one of the practices we were taught at college, but it was understood that the lower church folk would probably not want to do that - or indeed reverences, genuflections, signs of the cross etc, as it was not part of their experience or tradition, and simply didn't connect with what they were offering their congregations.

I imagine it goes back to Reformation times when the Lord's Supper was stripped back to bare Protestant essentials and everyone gathered round the Holy Table to receive. No crosses, no gestures, vestments etc.

Variety still part of the blessing of Anglicanism, one hopes!

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Gee D
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All I can say Enoch is that no-one has ever said that they were confused. They accept that in a time of illness or wide-spread and contagious sickness a sanitiser is sensible, but that it does not cover the symbolic aspects of the water and towel.

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fletcher christian

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# 13919

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Posted by Eirenist:
quote:

Understood, but why, in the Evangelical/Low Church tradition does one NOT wash the hands?

Probably because it is part of a wider ritualism associated with the celebration of the Eucharist. At the time of the Reformation there was an attempt to simplify and remove aspects of celebration that might have been seen as 'part of the magic' so to speak. It was an attempt to halt the superstition of 'doing it correctly for the sake of its effectiveness' to doing it well and clearly to communicate the Gospel. We could argue back and forth all day long as to the place of ritual and what constitutes ritual, but at some point the lavabo use dropped out of use among many reformed traditions, or fashion, or some may have felt it part of an unnecessary ritualistic distraction. For those who valued ritualistic elements as an aid to concentration or as part part of the theatre (crude term, but works) of the Eucharist, the lavabo was either maintained or re-introduced.

For the specifics of the question in the OP, I guess the person who doesn't now do it has either never done it (and therefore probably won't start) or just doesn't know what it is so doesn't see the point in slavishly enacting something for reasons they don't know - which is an entirely sensible Reformation principle after all.

[ 14. February 2018, 10:49: Message edited by: fletcher christian ]

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Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
# 273

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Probably not quite. At least with the Reformed tradition, there is quite a strong left-handed streak to the ritual with the deliberate crossing and non-marking of sacred boundaries. This has not resulted in a discarding of the boundaries although that may have been the original intention. As you can see from the wedding thread, the liberal Reformed have a clear awareness of the sanctity of space and invocation of the holy. The sacredness is therefore marked in Evangelical circles by not doing the lavabo. The removal of ritual actions marking instead the place of the sacred.

Jengie

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fletcher christian

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That's a very interesting paper but I suspect it's missing the early irish Christian influence in Scotland, development borne of opposition and Scottish Victorian notions of propriety. That, however, is a whole other topic and would be deserving of a thread all of its own. I can't make a leap from it or the book to using - or not using - a lavabo at the Eucharist though.

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Staretz Silouan

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Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
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Yes, you need the book as well to make the link. Basically, Kim Knott's argument possible to mark the Holy by doing sacred signification in line with holiness (right-handed) or by deliberately violating those sacred signs (left-handed); for instance from the paper the deliberately not holding the door open for others to pass when members would in normal life. The paper gives a whole lot of left-handed symbols. The Reformed do this a lot. Evangelicalism borrows from Reformed praxis a lot.

Jengie

[ 14. February 2018, 14:18: Message edited by: Jengie jon ]

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churchgeek

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quote:
Originally posted by fletcher christian:
I was taught that the lavabo is in part symbolic of Pilate washing his hands, so this with other ritualised elements, is a playing out of the Passion as part of the Eucharistic action.

I've never heard that! Frankly, I suspect it's something someone casting about for an explanation came up with, and it got passed on to whoever told you.

So much that happens in the Eucharist comes just from ordinary table practices. We pour water in the wine because that's what the ancients used to do (to water it down so everyone wasn't getting drunk too quickly at meals). And the celebrant washes their hands because that's what you're supposed to do before preparing food.

I suspect the only reason this happens after the table's already been set and the priest has already handled the elements is because in many churches, there isn't a deacon or lay assistant setting the table. And because all of it has become ceremony rather than an actual meal, only the priest does the ritual washing, and it gets imbued with theological and pious reasons (including the prayer from the Psalms about washing her/his hands from iniquity).

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leo
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If you don't believe in eucharistic sacrifice, you don't need to wash your hands - when we had Lutherans in our LEP, they didn't do it.
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Forthview
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I'm not sure what background Fletcher Christian has , but in the days before Vatican2 most people will know that for Catholics of the Roman Rite the Mass was,to all intents, completely in Latin.

There were various ways for the faithful to follow the Mass :
1. to follow in a prayer book the Latin text with a translation into one's own language, say English

2. to follow the text of the Mass in a translation with the odd Latin word or phrase stuck in

3. to read various other prayers which were vaguely aligned with the text and ideas of the Mass

4. to do something completely different like meditating upon the mysteries of the rosary

5. The Mass,the eucharist is ,according to the Catholic Church, the source and summit of the Christian life , because amongst other things it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Saviour. Until Vatican 2 the RC church emphasized, perhaps even overemphasized the sacrificial element of the 'Holy Sacrifice' to the detriment of the communal meal. One popular way for the lay faithful was to follow the ideas of the Mass,linking each general part such as Entrance prayers,Kyrie,Gloria,Epistle Gospel,Credo,Offertory,Lavabo,Orate fratres etc.etc. with the life passion death and resurrection of Christ.

The linking of the Lavabo with the washing of hands by Pontius Pilate would probably have come from this sort of popular devotional literature.

Apart from this event I can't remember how the other parts of the Mass were linked to the story of the Crucifixion except for 'Ite,missa est'
(Go off on your mission to evangelize others !)
or as they say today 'Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord !

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by churchgeek:


So much that happens in the Eucharist comes just from ordinary table practices. We pour water in the wine because that's what the ancients used to do (to water it down so everyone wasn't getting drunk too quickly at meals). And the celebrant washes their hands because that's what you're supposed to do before preparing food.

And I have long understood that it also commemorates the piercing of Christ's side, with blood and water coming from the wound.

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fletcher christian

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That's what I was thinking too!
Why can't it be both? Both ways of looking at these things make sense in a wider context and in the detail of the celebration itself. It's not as if we don't have to live with the same things in our scriptures. the suffering servant for example is both a representation of Israel and a symbol of Christ. There's no real reason why one layer of symbolism should trump the other in lavabo, or the white cloth, or the water in the wine...or whatever. You can say lavabo is a pious inclusion but essentially painting the Eucharist as 'that meal' as a meal is a pious effort too. I remember someone arguing vociferously that the white napkins tied to the ends of pews in a Presbyterian celebration of communion was pointing to a wedding; more acutely the consummation of bride and groom in a new kingdom of God. It is of course meant to represent the equality of the table and the sense that the congregation are gathered at one table together, all cut of the same cloth (if you'll pardon the pun), but there's really no reason it cannot be both.

For me, that is part of ritual does and one of its great benefits - the addition of layers to text and action that unfolds meaning.

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by fletcher christian:
Why can't it be both?

Why not indeed? The urge to give practical acts and practical items deeper symbolic meaning is a strong one throughout the church’s history, and perhaps among humans generally. Not a bad thing at all.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
quote:
Originally posted by fletcher christian:
Why can't it be both?

Why not indeed? The urge to give practical acts and practical items deeper symbolic meaning is a strong one throughout the church’s history, and perhaps among humans generally. Not a bad thing at all.
It can easily be both, which is why I said "also". Perhaps other meanings as well.

I've also head someone, who ought know much better, describe it as a Lutheran heresy!

[ 16. February 2018, 19:53: Message edited by: Gee D ]

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churchgeek

Have candles, will pray
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quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
quote:
Originally posted by churchgeek:


So much that happens in the Eucharist comes just from ordinary table practices. We pour water in the wine because that's what the ancients used to do (to water it down so everyone wasn't getting drunk too quickly at meals). And the celebrant washes their hands because that's what you're supposed to do before preparing food.

And I have long understood that it also commemorates the piercing of Christ's side, with blood and water coming from the wound.
That's the pious/theological reason that was added later, because the human mind needs to explain things.

Please don't think I'm saying there's anything wrong with making those connections. It could be that those are NOW the reasons we do these things, but they weren't originally. I don't personally find it meaningful to think of blood and water from Christ's side at that point, but I do find it meaningful to see right there in front of me an ancient ritual linking us back so far in history. To each her own. I'm a big fan of the "both/and"!

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Gee D
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Thanks Churchgeek - any idea when that additional explanation came in please?

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