Expert Answer Forum
gestures QUESTION from marie October 25, 2000 During the Lord's Prayer, is the priest the only one to put his arms up? I thought the deacons usually stand with their hands folded. The faithful have been gesturing as the priest with their arms outstretched. I thought this gesture was for the ministerial priesthood only. Is there any reference in any Church documents either way?
ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on October 25, 2000 Dear Marie,
Praying while holding the hands up is called the orans position. It's an ancient posture dating back to pre-Christian times. Customarily only the priest prays in the orans position while the deacon and assembly pray with their hands folded. When concelebrating the Mass notice that all the priests use the orans position during the Lord's Prayer but only the principal celebrant continues this position during the doxology; for the kingdom, the power, and the glory… Lately many people seem to be using the orans. I think it's a spillover from the charismatic movement.
The liturgical documents call for the celebrant and in some cases, the concelebrant(s) to use the orans posture as they pray ON THE BEHALF of the community. Note that it is never done by the Deacon, who does not represent the People before God but assists him who does. Nowhere do the rubrics call for the laity to assume this posture.
While no official position is prescribed in the Sacramentary for the congregation during the Lord's Prayer, the Holy See has pointed out that confusion has entered the Church about the hierarchical nature of her worship and in my opinion this gesture does nothing but to contribute to that confusion.
When the U.S. Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy submitted their recommendations for the updated Sacramentary they included much inclusive language in the prayers and made specific mention of using the orans position for the faithful. The final edition approved by Rome cut out most of the inclusive language and dropped any mention of the orans position being used by the faithful. This might suggest that they prefer the people to pray with their hands folded instead of using the orans. I personally think people look silly praying in this position. But what the heck, who am I to judge?
I hope this helps,
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