During the last Holy Week me and my wife attended the Holy Thursday mass. Instead of the traditional washing of the feet, the parish priest, wash the hands of all those who attended the mass. I was just wondering if this is acceptable. This is the first time I experienced this and for me it reminded me when Pontius Pilate wash his hands when he sentenced our Lord Jesus Christ.
Can. 846 §1. In celebrating the sacraments the liturgical books approved by competent authority are to be observed faithfully; accordingly, no one is to add, omit, or alter anything in them on one’s own authority.
- The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came "not to be served, but to serve. This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.
There is no option given for the washing of hands, the only option is the washing of feet in remembrance that Jesus washed the feet of his Apostles. The ritual of washing feet of Holy Thursday is optional, so if the priest is physically unable to wash feet because of health or injury then the washing of the feet can be omitted.
The Diocese of San Jose shares your concerns about the washing of the hands:
Some people are uncomfortable having their feet washed. Can they have their hands washed instead?
In light of the humbling service signified by washing of another’s feet and its biblical connection to Jesus’ action at the Last Supper, a variation of this rite that includes washing of hands does not make sense. If anything, washing hands seems to connect more to Pilate’s act of power and indifference when he washed his hands of condemning Jesus to death (Mt 27:24), than to Jesus’ own act of service and love when he stooped down to wash his disciples’ feet. Washing hands should not be given as an option during this rite.