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Meeting Christ in the Liturgy
Instruction of the Roman Missal

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52.

QUERY: May the rite of washing the hands be omitted from the celebration of Mass? REPLY: In no way. 1. Both the GIRM (nos. 52, 106, 222) and the Order of Mass (with a congregation, no. 24; without a congregation, no. 18) show the «Lavabo» to be one of the prescribed rites in the preparation of the gifts. A rite of major importance is clearly not at issue, but it is not to be dropped since its meaning is: "an expression of the (priest's) desire to be cleansed within" (GIRM no. 52). In the course of the Consilium's work on the Order of Mass, there were a number of debates on the value and the place to be assigned to the «Lavabo», e.g., on whether it should be a rite in silence or with an accompanying text; there was, however, unanimity that it must be retained. Even though there has been no practical reason for the act of handwashing since the beginning of the Middle Ages, its symbolism is obvious and understood by all (see SC art. 34). The rite is a usage in all liturgies of the West. 2. The Constitution on the Liturgy (SC art. 37 - 40) envisions ritual adaptations to be suggested by the conferences of bishops and submitted to the Holy See. Such adaptations must be based on serious reasons, for example, the specific culture and viewpoint of a people, contrary and unchangeable usages, the practical impossibility of adapting some new rite that is foreign to the genius of a people, and so on. 3. Apart from the envisioned exemptions from rubrics and differing translations of texts (see Consilium, Instr. 25 Jan. 1969), the Order of Mass is presented as a single unit whose general structure and individual components must be exactly respected. Arbitrary selectiveness on the part of an individual or a community would soon result in the ruin of a patiently and thoughtfully constructed work: Not 6 (1970) 38 - 39, no. 27.

 




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