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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part III: Of Washing the Hands.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XIII.—Of Washing the Hands.

But what reason is there in going to prayer with hands indeed washed, but the spirit foul?—inasmuch as to our hands themselves spiritual purities are necessary, that they may be “lifted up pure” 8841 from falsehood, from murder, from cruelty, from poisonings, 8842 from idolatry, and all the other blemishes which, conceived by the spirit, are effected by the operation of the hands.  These are the true purities; 8843 not those which most are superstitiously careful about, taking water at every prayer, even when they are coming from a bath of the whole body. When I was scrupulously making a thorough investigation of this practice, and searching into the reason of it, I ascertained it to be a commemorative act, bearing on the surrender 8844 of our Lord. We, however, pray to the Lord:  we do not surrender Him; nay, we ought even to set ourselves in opposition to the example of His surrenderer, and not, on that account, wash our hands.  Unless any defilement contracted in human intercourse be a conscientious cause for washing them, they are otherwise clean enough, which together with our whole body we once washed in Christ. 8845



1 Tim. ii. 8.


Or, “sorceries.”


See Matt. 15:10, 11, 17, Matt. 23:25, 26.


By Pilate. See Matt. xxvii. 24. [N. B. quoad Ritualia.]


i.e. in baptism.

Next: Apostrophe.

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