The Laver, Myrrh and Salt

“For ablutions you shall make a bronze laver with a bronze base. Place it between the meeting tent and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons shall use it in washing their hands and feet. When they are about to enter the meeting tent, they must wash with water, lest they die. Likewise when they approach the altar in their ministry, to offer an oblation to the LORD,]they must wash their hands and feet, lest they die. This shall be a perpetual ordinance for him and his descendants throughout their generations.” – Exodus 30:18-21

Is this where the Church gets its roots in the holy mass whereby the priest first washes his hands before consecrating the bread and wine?

Also is this why Jesus washed the feet of the apostles?

Take the finest spices: five hundred shekels of free-flowing myrrh; half that amount, that is, two hundred and fifty shekels, of fragrant cinnamon; two hundred and fifty shekels of fragrant cane; five hundred shekels of cassia-all according to the standard of the sanctuary shekel; together with a hin of olive oil; and blend them into sacred anointing oil, perfumed ointment expertly prepared. With this sacred anointing oil you shall anoint the meeting tent and the ark of the commandments, the table and all its appurtenances, the lampstand and its appurtenances, the altar of incense and the altar of holocausts with all its appurtenances, and the laver with its base. When you have consecrated them, they shall be most sacred; whatever touches them shall be sacred. Aaron and his sons you shall also anoint and consecrate as my priests. To the Israelites you shall say: As sacred anointing oil this shall belong to me throughout your generations. It may not be used in any ordinary anointing of the body, nor may you make any other oil of a like mixture. It is sacred, and shall be treated as sacred by you. Whoever prepares a perfume like this, or whoever puts any of this on a layman, shall be cut off from his kinsmen." The LORD told Moses, “Take these aromatic substances: storax and onycha and galbanum, these and pure frankincense in equal parts; and blend them into incense. This fragrant powder, expertly prepared, is to be salted and so kept pure and sacred. Grind some of it into fine dust and put this before the commandments in the meeting tent where I will meet you. This incense shall be treated as most sacred by you. You may not make incense of a like mixture for yourselves; you must treat it as sacred to the LORD. Whoever makes an incense like this for his own enjoyment of its fragrance, shall be cut off from his kinsmen.” – Exodus 30:23-38

Is the reason why one of the wise men presented to the baby Jesus myrrh, to consecrate him as a priest if not consecrate at least predict this baby will become a priest?

Also is this where our Lord gets his teaching that we are the salt of the earth (pure)?

The act of Jesus of washing the feet of the Apostles is an act of humility.

HE was their “Rabbuni” a deferential title deriving from the word Rabbi, “Teacher”.
Also at this moment they already knew that Jesus was in fact the Messiah.
So by Him showing them WITH actions that we need to humble ourselves, that the higher we are in our state in life the more we need to lookout for the lowest of us, He is showing us what real love is.


Jesus also said “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” John 13:8.

I’m thinking this may be somehow connect to the passage I quoted above in Exodus 30:18-21

The reason for the Lavabo, the washing of the hands by the priest during Mass, is in memory of Pontius Pilate’s washing of his hands during the Passion of The Lord.

So the priest is also acting in place of Pilate? I don’t know…

Pilate unjustly sentenced Jesus to death and then washed his hands. Is that what the priest is doing?

Historically speaking, I don’t think so. The washing of hands originally served a practical purpose: the celebrant soiled his hands during the Offertory after handling all those gifts. In the earliest description of the Roman liturgy we have (Ordo Romanus I, from the 8th-9th century), this is how the Offertory goes:

The pontiff now goes down to the place where the notables sit, the chancellor holding his right hand and the chief counsellor his left: and he receives the loaves of the princes in the order of their promotion (?). The archdeacon next receives the flasks of wine, and pours them into the greater chalice which is carried by a district-subdeacon, and a collet = acolyte] follows him holding a bowl outside his planet, into which the chalice when full is emptied. A district-subdeacon takes the loaves from the pontiff and hands them to the subdeacon-attendant, who places them in a linen cloth held by two collets. An hebdomadary bishop receives the rest of the loaves after the pontiff, so that he may, with his own hand, put them into the linen cloth which is carried after him. Following him the deacon-attendant receives the flasks of wine, and pours them into the bowl with his own hand, after the archdeacon. Meanwhile the pontiff, before passing over to the women’s side, goes down before the Confession, and there receives the loaves of the chancellor, the secretary, and the chief counsellor. For on festivals they offer at the altar after the deacons. In like manner the pontiff goes up to the women’s side, and performs there all things in the same order as detailed above. And the presbyters do likewise, should there be need, either after the pontiff or in the presbytery.

After this, the pontiff returns to his throne, the chancellor and the secretary each taking him by the hand, and there washes his hands. The archdeacon stands before the altar and washes his hands at the end of the collection of the offerings. Then he looks the pontiff in the face, signs to him, and, after the pontiff has returned his salutation, approaches the altar.

Another Ordo Romanus from the same time period (Ordo Romanus IV, aka the Ordo of St. Amand):

Then the pontiff washes his hands, and rises from his throne; and the choir go back to the left side of the presbytery. Then the pontiff goes down to receive the offerings from the people, and the archdeacon signs to the choir to say the offertory-anthem. As the pontiff receives the loaves, he hands them to the subdeacon, who puts them into a linen cloth held by the collets who attend him. The deacons receive the flask of wine. The stational chalice is carried by the district-subdeacon, and the deacon pours the flasks into the holy chalice itself; and when it is full, it is emptied into the bowls which the collets carry. Then the pontiff goes with the deacons to the women’s side, and they do the same there. He then goes back to his throne, but the deacons remain to receive the flasks of wine. In the meantime there stand before the pontiff the chancellor, the secretary, the notaries and district-officials, while the presbyters are receiving loaves and flasks within the presbytery, both from the men’s side as well as the women’s; and the collets hold linen cloths and bowls to gather them in.

Then the archdeacon washes his hands, and the rest of the deacons wash their hands. Then the collets hold the linen cloth with the loaves, which the pontiff received from the people, at the right corner of the altar: some of which the subdeacon-attendant selects and hands to a district-subdeacon, who gives them to the archdeacon.

That’s the thing, basically: most stuff in the liturgy which originally had a mundane purpose were applied symbolic meanings by medieval liturgists after they ceased to have a practical function, in order to make sense of them. (The explanation George gave is one example of this.)

Some do, however, argue that the hand-washing may derive from the Jewish custom of ritually washing oneself before worship (kind of like what Muslims do today).

This BTW is what the OCE says about it:

The principle of washing the hands before celebrating the holy Liturgy — at first an obvious practical precaution of cleanness, then interpreted also symbolically — occurs naturally in all rites. In the Eastern rites this is done at the beginning as part of the vesting; it is generally accompanied by the same fragment of Psalm 25 (vv. 6-12) said in the West after the Offertory. But in the “Apost. Const.”, VIII, 11, the hands of the celebrants are washed just before the dismissal of the catechumens (Brightman, 13), in the Syriac and Coptic rites after the creed (ib., 82 and 162). Cyril of Jerusalem also mentions a washing that takes place in sight of the people (Cat. Myst., v). So also in the Roman Rite the celebrant washes his hands before vesting, but with another prayer (“Da, Domine, virtutem”, etc., in the Missal among the “Orationes ante Missam”). The reason of the second washing, during the Mass, at Rome was no doubt the special need for it after the long ceremony of receiving the loaves and vessels of wine from the people at the Offertory (all of which is absent from the Eastern rites). The first Roman Ordines describe a general washing of hands by the celebrant and deacons, who have received and carried the offerings to the altar, immediately after they have done so (“Ordo Rom. I”, 14; “Ordo of St. Amand” in Duchesne, “Origines du Culte”, 443, etc.; in the St. Amand Ordo the Pontiff washes his hands both before and after the Offertory). There is as yet no mention of any psalm or prayers said at the time. In the Gallican Rite the offerings were prepared before Mass began, as in the East; so there was no Offertory nor place for a Lavabo later. At Milan there is now an Offertory borrowed from Rome, but no washing of hands at this point; the Mozarabic Liturgy also has a Romanizing Offertory and a washing, but without any prayer (Missale Mixtum", P.L., LXXXV, 538). The Roman Rite had in the Middle Ages two washings of the hands at the Offertory, one just before, while the deacon spread the corporal on the altar, one immediately after the incensing that follows the offertory (Durandus, “Rationale”, IV, 28; Benedict XIV, “De SS. Missæ Sacrif.”, II, 11). The first of these has now disappeared. The second was accompanied by the verses 6-12 of Psalm xxv. This psalm is first mentioned by the medieval commentators (e.g. Durandus, loc. cit.). No doubt it was said from very early times as a private devotion obviously suitable for the occasion. We have noted that it accompanies the washing before the Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite. Benedict XIV notes that as late as his time (eighteenth century) “in some churches only some verses are said” (loc. cit.) although the Missal requires that all (that is from v. 6 to the end) be recited. Cyril of Jerusalem (loc. cit.) already explains the washing as a symbol of purity of the soul; all the medieval writers (Durandus, loc. cit.; St Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theol.”, III, Q. lxxxiii, art. 5, ad 1um; etc.) insist on this idea.

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