Entering the Holy of Holies by ritual washing of the hand: The priest washes his hands in a gesture that signals a dramatic event is about to take place. Psalm 24 reflects the importance of this ritual for people preparing to enter the Temple. In this Psalm, ritual hand washing symbolizes the internal cleansing of heart required before a person could draw near to God’s presence in the sanctuary. Our Lord will soon dwell within us as we receive him in Holy Communion. Jesus, the one true High Priest will accomplish this through the priest’s hands. In preparation for this most sacred moment, the priest washes his hands as he approaches a new “holy of holies.” And he echoes David’s humble prayer of contrition to prepare his soul for this holy task. “Wash me O’Lord from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. “ (see Ps 51:2) Finally in our last act of preparation, the priest turns to the people begging them for prayers as he is about to begin the Eucharistic prayer:
Pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
The new translation of this prayer more accurately reflects the original Latin text of the Mass which refers to “my” sacrifice and “yours” and brings the meaning of this prayer out more beautifully. The “my” part of the sacrifice points to Christ’s sacrifice which will be made present through the ordained priest who acts in persona Christi. The ‘your’ part of the sacrifice refers to the entire church offering itself in union with Christ in the Mass. The people respond with a prayer that recognizes how both sacrifices – Christ’s and their own – will be united and offered to the Father through the hands of the priest:
May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands
For the praise and glory of his name
For our good and the good of all his holy church