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What are the ablutions?
It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. No, it's not windows, but it's close. It's doing the dishes. The afterglow of many a lovely dinner party has been ruined by the thought of all those dirty dishes waiting to be done up.
While there are not a lot of "dishes" to do at Mass, there is some cleaning up to be done. This process is called the ablutions. As for many of the actions of the liturgy, what was once a common act has taken on a ritual significance and order. The Paten (the plate which holds the consecrated Host) is cleaned of remaining particles of the Sacred Body by carefully sweeping these into the chalice. The chalice is then cleaned in a two-stage fashion. First, a portion of wine is poured into the chalice by the attending minister. The priest swirls it around a bit to clean any portions of the Precious Blood which may still adhere to the sides of the cup. He then consumes this first ablution with a prayer. Next, the priest places his fingers over the cup and the second ablution is done with a small bit of wine and a good portion of water. He then consumes this with another prayer. The chalice is then dried with the purificator and revested.
This ceremony became a regular part of the Mass sometime in the latter part of the 10th century. Originally, both the chalice and celebrant's fingers were cleansed with wine. Later it became wine for the first ablution and water for the second. Eventually it became wine and water for the second ablution. In the Mozarabic and Greek liturgies the ablutions are performed privately after the Eucharistic celebration. In the other Eastern rites the ablutions are performed as part of the service after Communion and before the closing prayers. The Novus Ordo of the Roman church has adopted the bad habit of some Anglicans by offering the option of performing the ablutions after the close of the Service.