Ritual Housework!

monks_sweepingI have seen that a few people have looked at my old site on washing the altars Washing of the Altar on Maundy Thursday.

This morning (yes I celebrated the Mass in Coena Domini this morning), I stripped and washed the high altar with the prescribed responsories and prayers. The altar stone got a good clean and dry with kitchen tissues. I’m not afraid to use modern materials, like the paintbrush I use to apply the wine and water all over the altar.

When I got to the Lady Altar, I hadn’t realised the extent to which it was filthy with dust and cobwebs. Before washing with wine and water, I needed to give the altar a real clean with a dustpan and brush. I was not far from taking off my red stole and alb! After the brush work and the washing with wine and water, which was a little more than “ritual”, my Lady Altar is now nice and clean and bare until the preparation for Holy Saturday.

There is an allegorical meaning for this altar washing, the connection with the crucified Christ being prepared for burial as in the old Jewish custom. The allegorical meaning is added to the original functional purpose for everything we do in the liturgy. Originally, it was simply the spring cleaning of the chapel. About a week ago, I had flung open the door and window, and gone through the entire chapel with a vacuum cleaner and cobweb brush – that was not a ceremony! What I didn’t see was the filth under the altar cloths. It just goes to show…

Spring brings vigour and energy, a hearty desire to turn off the heating and fling the windows open. Spring cleaning is something important for us all, and is itself a symbol of our spiritual renewal at Easter, reflecting the passage from Christ’s death to new life in the Resurrection. This afternoon, my wife and I are cleaning the house, and I have a visit to make to the local municipal rubbish dump to get rid of some old junk that doesn’t go with the normal dustbin collection.

I’m sure many other people are getting round to the same old chores. It shows the precious relationship between liturgy and life.

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