Our priest does a fantastic job of guarding his thumb and index fingers once he has touched the Host. I was wondering if this is a symbolic gesture, as I have never seen our Eucharistic Ministers or Deacon wash their hands? [The proper term is really "Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion", not "Eucharistic Ministers".] In my prideful / judgemental way I sometimes get a bit angry at their lack of reverence and I know I could be way off here. Thanks and God Bless.
So many people have been hurt and are hurting, friend.
Your description of what the priest is doing, by keeping his index and thumbs together, is consistent with what priests have been required by the rubrics to do during Mass after the consecration. Priests are still, in the Extraordinary Form, required to keep index and thumbs pressed together at the “pads”, as it were, lest any recognizable particle that might have adhered to the fingers were to fall some place outside the corporal (the square linen cloth spread out on the altar on which the chalice and Hosts rest). This is also why, after the consecration, the priest was to keep his hand as much as possible over the corporal. This is also why it is good during Mass when the chalice is uncovered for the priest gently to rub his fingers and thumbs together over the chalice, for the sake of letting particles fall into the chalice rather than elsewhere. It becomes habitual and it takes no effort or delay to do it.
These gestures are not required by the rubrics of the Novus Ordo.
It is a good thing to do anyway.
First, it makes sense. Second, it’s what priests do.
Some will object that this practice seems fussy or even – gasp – scrupulous.
I respond saying that recognizable particles remain the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of the Lord. I think the Eucharist deserves our care and attention.
On a number of occasions I have felt a particle remain on my fingers, pressed between the pads of my thumb and index. This can occur more frequently when the hosts are dry or have edges that are rough or not well “sealed”.
I am a sinner, but when I come before the Lord for His judgment He won’t tell me I was careless with the Him during Mass. Shame on those priests who are careless.
Fathers! People see what you do when you are up there and what you don’t do. Be careful with the Eucharist! Purify vessels properly! Don’t leave fragments all over everything!
I have had concerned sacristans show me patens for chalices that have particles left on them. For the love of GOD! Purify carefully!
In any event, about washing hands, let’s run with that for a moment or two.
The priest – in the older way of doing things – ought to wash his hands before vesting while saying the prayer “Da, Domine, virtutem manibus meis ad abstergendam omnem maculam immundam; ut sine pollutione mentis et corporis valeam tibi servire. … Give virtue to my hands, O Lord, that being cleansed from all stain I might serve you without impurity of mind and body.” Alas, some sacristies don’t have sinks, much less sacraria! Grrrr. Then, during Mass, he purifies his fingers after preparing the “gifts”. In the new rite he says simply, “Lava me ab iniquitate mea et a peccato meo munda me … Wash me of my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” In the older rite he recites the Lavabo, from Psalm 26. In the older form of the Roman Rite he continues, as I mentioned above, to cleanse his fingers after the consecration. Finally, after Communion and during the ablutions when he is purifying the vessels he again purifies the tips of his fingers. During the course of the ablutions before wine and water are poured over his fingers held over the cup of the chalice, say says “Corpus Tuum, Domine,… May Your Body, O Lord, which I have received, and Your Blood which I have drunk, cleave to my inmost parts, and grant that no stain of sin may remain in me, who have been fed with this pure and holy Sacrament….” Everything having to do with purification of the fingers, vessels and safeguarding of the Eucharist is to be performed with serious focus.
Regarding, however, the reverence of the priest – you can’t know for sure what he has in his heart or mind. You can only see the outward reflection of his inward full, conscious and active participation, which, because he is the priest, should be exemplary.
The priest should carefully instruct the deacon concerning purification of the vessels. Sadly, the training that some permanent deacons received was … sub-optimal. Diaconal programs are improving, but, there for a while…. damn!
And if there are Extraordinary Ministers, they should of course be instructed with extra care.
I will have to leave aside that I don’t think that the non-ordained should handle sacred vessels with their bare hands, much less the Eucharist, unless absolutely necessary. That’s the stuff of a different rant on another occasion.