ABLUTION, or the ceremonial act, of washing to symbolize purification from un cleanness, is a rite which has been observed by many races of people from the early Mosaic days down to our own time. Under the Mo saical dispensation the act of ablution had four purposes: (1) To cleanse from the taint of an inferior position before initiation into a higher state, as when Aaron and his sons, having been chosen for the priesthood, were washed with water before they were invested with their robes of office; (2) to cleanse in order to fit one for special acts of religious ceremony, as when the priests were required, under the pen alty of death, to wash both their hands and feet before approaching the altar; (3) to cleanse from defilement contracted by some particular circumstance which prevented one from enjoying the privileges of ordinary life, of which there were no less than 11 species of uncleanness recognized by the law; and (4) to cleanse or absolve oneself from the guilt of a particular act, as when, in expiation for an unknown murder, the elders of the village washed their hands over the slaughtered heifer, saying, °Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen (Dent. xxi). This practice was also common both among the Greeks and Romans, and it was undoubtedly in accordance with this practice that Pilate called for water and washed his hands to signify that he held himself innocent of the blood of Jesus Christ (Matt. xxvii, 24).
Ablution by the priests before the perform ance of sacred ceremonies was common even among the heathen, while the Egyptian priests carried the practice to such an extreme that they shaved their entire bodies every third' day and then washed themselves in cold water twice every day and twice each night, that no particle of filth might even rest upon them. Such an
act corresponds somewhat to the more simple wade of the Mohammedans, a ceremonial wash ing which they are compelled to observe five times daily, or immediately before their stated prayers, and these do not begin to represent the formal acts of cleansing required by the Moslem law. For example, the ablution for positive defilement required by Moses has its counterpart in the Mohammedan ghual, and yet again, under the Moslem law, the causes of such defilement are specified so minutely that they greatly exceed those of the ancient Jews. So strict was the law upon this point, however, that, when water could not be obtained, it was required that the purification should be made with something that might represent the water. In times of drought, therefore, or on occasions of sickness, the act of purification might be performed by rinsing, or rubbing the hands and face with dry sand. This form of cleans ing was called tayemmum.
The ceremony of ablution at communion was adopted by the early Christian Church, and has been retained both in the Eastern and Roman Catholic churches. In the Roman Catholic Church it has become a liturgical term, denoting the two acts of cleansing per formed during the mass: (1) When wine is poured into the chalice to disengage any par ticles which may be left in the vessel; and (2) when both wine and water are poured over the priest's fingers into the chalice. In the Greek Church the word °ablution° is applied to a ceremony performed seven days after baptism, when the unction of the chrism is formally washed off from those who have been baptized.