The Sacred That Surrounds Us: The Lavabo Bowl & Pitcher
November 7, 2021, 12:00 PM
Lavabo is Latin for “I will wash.” The lavabo bowl and pitcher are two items used to wash the fingers of the main celebrant of the Mass before he consecrates the bread and wine. The bowl catches the water poured out by the pitcher.
The washing of hands occurs in all rites of the Catholic Church but is employed at different times depending on the rite. Speaking about the washing of hands, St. Cyril of Jerusalem bears witness to the practice as far back as the fourth century. In the Middle Ages, there were two washings: one while the deacon placed the corporal over the altar cloth, and the other after the Offertory. Currently in the Roman Rite, the washing of the hands happens once, at the end of the Offertory.
Water is essential for our very life, both physically and spiritually. Although water is used to purify physically, the priest will not use soap during this gesture, signifying a deeper meaning. The washing of the priest’s hands before he touches the consecrated Host reflects the need to be spiritually purified before the Lord as reflected in the priest’s prayer as the water is being poured: “Wash me, oh Lord, from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” A water cruet may be used in place of the pitcher, and some churches may only have a lavabo bowl.