The Laver: The “How” of the Old Testament – Premium Content

The Old Testament laver teaches us that cleansing and purity is necessary for all those who would approach God. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus when John baptized Him in the Jordan River. The dove was real, not symbolic; the Holy Spirit was real, not symbolic. John the Baptist was a witness that Jesus’ baptism was literal, physical, and spiritual. I can know with certainty that through baptism in water the Holy Spirit descends upon me, follows me as the water-Rock in the desert, and reconfigures me into a “new creation” of Christ.

Water in the Old Testament

Genesis 6:5-18, The Great Flood

Exodus 14, The Red Sea Crossing

Exodus 17:1-7, God miraculously provides water from the rock in the desert.

Exodus 30, specifications for the bronze laver in the tabernacle in which the priests washed serving hands and gospel feet

Exodus 38:8, The laver is made from the mirrors of the tabernacle virgins.

Ezekiel 47, The prophets continued the theme, using water extensively as a symbol of the New Covenant that revealed how cleansing waters would somehow, one day, also create new life.

Type – Antitype correspondence

1 Corinthians 10:1-4, St. Paul says Noah’s flood and the Red Sea crossing are antitypes of baptism.

1 Peter 3:21, Baptism saves us.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4, The Rock that provided water followed them through the desert.

St. Ambrose, de Sacramentis, lib. v. c. 1: “It was no motionless rock which followed the people.”

Tertullian, de Baptismo, c. ix: “This is the water which flowed from the rock which accompanied the people.”

Baptismal Promises:

  • Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children? I do.
  • Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin? I do.
  • Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness? I do.
  • Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? I do.
  • Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? I do.
  • Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting? I do. 
  • God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven

Ephesians 5:26, “…that He might cleanse her (the Church) by the washing (laver, bath) of water with the word…”

Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing (laver, bath) of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.”

Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed (lavered, bathed) with pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope…”

The Ephesians passage indicates that it is the Rite of Baptism, the water and the words spoken, that accomplish the cleansing. The Titus passage clarifies that the action of grace performed by the Holy Spirit makes the water and words efficacious. Adding further specificity, the Hebrews passage includes the Baptismal promises, the “confession.” We renew this confession every Easter and memorialize it every time we visit a baptismal font and make the Sign of the Cross.

John 3:5, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 3:13-17, The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus when John baptized Him in the Jordan River. The dove was real, not symbolic; the Holy Spirit was real, not symbolic.

John 1:32-34, John the Baptist was a witness that Jesus’ baptism was literal, physical, and spiritual. I can know with certainty that through baptism in water the Holy Spirit descends upon me.

2 Corinthians 5:17, Those baptized into Christ are “a new creation.”

The Lavabo (“I shall wash”) in the Mass is derived from the words of Psalm 26:6-12. The priest pours water from the cruet over his fingers into a little dish, then uses a towel to dry his fingers. As he washes his hands he prays the lavabo prayer: “Lord, wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Novus Ordo). This ceremony before the Eucharistic prayer within the Mass is known as the lavabo proper.

John 2:2-11, Jesus changes water into wine.

John 13:1-17, Just before the eve of His terrifying, supreme sacrifice, Jesus dons the priestly girdle of sacrificial service in the towel he uses and washes the disciples’ dusty, tired feet.

Mark 10:35-45, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.”

“Where purity increases, so does the capacity to love” St. Josemaría Escrivá.

Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

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