One of the exciting times of parish life is when a bishop comes to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. Among the preparations that need to be made by a parish for this joyous occasion are the preparation of the lemons and bread used to wash the Sacred Chrism (or see Wikipedia) off of the bishop’s hands.
Typically, quartered lemons and sliced bread are used. Allow me to propose a different way of preparing these items that make it easier (and quicker) for the bishop to remove the Sacred Chrism from his hands. You might think that this is a bit of minutia, but I tell you that everything which regards the Church’s liturgy is significant. Attention to detail is important. Liturgy, of which the administration of each of the Seven Sacraments are a part, is the principle way we worship God. So the preparation of lemons and bread for hand cleansing is a way by which we give glory to God.
The goal here is to most easily get the lemon juice onto the hands. A second benefit of this way is that is allows the lemon to be used as a sort of sponge that facilitates the removal of the oil from the hands.
I recommend having two lemons ready-to-go even though one usually suffices.
Basically what you want to peel the lemon so that it look peeled orange without any pith (the white spongy covering between the skin and juicy part) remaining. It is important that the pith is removed to get the most lemon juice with the least effort when squeezed. The photo should be self-explanatory.
The lemon is now optimally prepared to remove oil from one’s hands.
The purpose of the bread is to absorb any remaining chrism as well as lemon juice. Sliced white bread seems to be the norm here. Using sliced bread is akin to using a flimsy tissue for absorbance, when one would be better served by a heavy-duty paper towel. The preparation process for the bread is similar to that of the lemons.
Bread selection: you want an unsliced soft bread. Stale or hard breads are not as absorbent.
Next, cut the loaf into more manageable chunks (I recommend about fist size) and immediately cover. Soft breads like this tend to stale quickly so it is important that they are covered to retain their usefulness.
It has been a while since I’ve posted Sacristy Notes. I’ll try to make this a more regular thing.
Please comment with any thoughts, better practices, or suggestions for future posts!