Monday, September 08, 2008

Handwashing: Manly Prayer

Fr Z has been asked about the prayer the priest says whilst washing his hands before Mass, I know some don't, now it is optional. Servers too should say this prayer as Fr Z says, before vesting.

Da, Domine, virtutem manibus meis ad abstergendum omnem maculam ut sine pollutione mentis et corporis valeam tibi servire.

He translates it as -

Give manly power to my hands, O Lord, in order to cleanse every stain, so that I may be able to serve you without defilement of mind and body.

I like his translation of virtutem as manly, rather that just strong.

It is not bad thing to ritualise things we do normally by adding prayer, the Jews do it, I should think the Lord did too.

So the next time you wash your hands...


GOR said...

I have noted before (and possibly here) that back when I was an altar boy (1950s Ireland) silence was observed in the Sacristy. In our parish church, altar boys had a separate 'sacristy' from the priests'. The priest prayed the prayers associated with each vestment when vesting for Mass - hence the need for silence.

Then, vested, he went to a prie Dieu in the Sacristy located in front of a picture frame which had the Prayers Before Mass printed in Latin - "Ad mensam dulcissimi..." "Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, ecce accedo..." "O Mater pietatis..." "Ego volo celebrare Missam..."

Upon completion of this, the altar boys were brought into the Sacristy proper and lined up for processing to the altar. Only in the direst circumstances would you interrupt a priest preparing for Mass. Even the Sacristan was very circumspect.

It all served to inculcate in us that the Mass was an important event, where reverence was due and expected - and silence was de rigueur.

We need to return to that, not just in the sacristy, but in the church proper and by everyone...

Anonymous said...

I dunno, some of these Americans seem obsessed by Masculinity, RARGH! I was not at all convinced by his case for sticking in that "manly". It just means power or strength, you're not going to think it might mean "womanly strength", are you?

Anonymous said...

Well...I'm skeptical of his translation, but it is true that it has its derivation from 'vir' which means 'man'...

GOR said...

Well, Berenike, the prayer was originally intended for the priest - a man - preparing for Mass. In my St. Andrew Daily Missal it was rendered as: "Give virtue, O Lord, unto my hands that every stain may be washed away: that I may be able to serve Thee without defilement of mind or body."

While 'virtue' might be a too-literal translation of 'virtus' - and uncommon to us today - I bow to Fr. Z's (and Lewis and Short) and Fr. Blake's 'manly' translation in the context of Mass and the priesthood.

In other contexts the 'virtus' could be womanly also, given that:

'In medio stat virtus'...:)

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...