Have you ever thought about how you use your hands? I’m so glad I’m a human being and not a turtle or a dinosaur or something else without hands. Think of all we can do with hands – we can type, throw a baseball, feed ourselves, greet others by shaking hands, and gesturing (in good ways like waving someone to go ahead in traffic, and in not-so-good ways, if you know what I mean). Hands are important! In a sense, they are sort of one of our gateways to our relationships and interactions with others. They are how we pass things on to those around us.
We’ve already talked about the consecration numerous times in other articles that I’ve written, but Eucharistic Prayer I makes a big deal about the “holy and venerable hands” of Jesus Christ. When something is venerable, it is deserving of our respect and devotion. If it’s true that our hands are the gateways of our relationships, then what better way to show the relationship between God and man than by Jesus’ hands? It’s through these hands that he gives us the greatest gift we can imagine – Christ’s own Body and Blood. And it’s through the hands of the priest that Jesus makes the Eucharist present, breaks it, and gives it to all of us.
At ordination, the priest’s hands are anointed with the oil of Sacred Chrism, the holiest of the three oils of the Church. Through that anointing, his hands are consecrated and set apart, not to be just the priest’s hands, but to be Christ’s venerable hands – extended in blessing, pouring water and new life on the baptized, anointing the sick, giving absolution to sinners, distributing to the faithful his Body and Blood.
That’s some powerful stuff! One of the traditions that I learned as some of my best friends were ordained a few years ahead of me was that after receiving the first personal blessing of the priest, it’s a pious practice to kiss his hands. That seems like a strange thing to do, especially to your best friends, almost as though your were pledging your fealty to a king. But as I thought about it, the kiss on the hands isn’t because they are the priest’s hands, but because they have become Christ’s hands through that anointing with the sacred oil.
Now, in this case, we were specifically talking about the hands of Christ in a sacramental and ministerial way, but in a more general way, all of us, by our baptism, are called to allow our hands to become Christ’s hands as well. Maybe that’s something to think about this week. Are your hands the hands of Christ? Do they offer healing and forgiveness to those who wrong us? Do they offer generosity to those in need? Especially as we’re kicking off the season of Lent, make an effort to open yourselves to be Christ’s venerable hands this week!