"Un Ti Morceau"

"A Little Something," mini-lessons and reflections by our pastor, Father Paul Counce

The Lord's Prayer 2: Gesture

Published December 22, 2013 by Fr. Paul Counce

In recent years there’s been a lot of discussion over the best posture for the congregation to assume during the pray­ing of the Lord’s Prayer.

For the priest there’s no real option: he prays with hands held upwards and apart. This is known as the orans pos­i­tion (from the Latin word for “praying”). It has been the most classic prayer-posture down through the cen­tu­ries. All at once it evokes adoration and thanksgiving to God who is Greater than the one praying, as well as supplica­tion for bles­sings which only God can give. Speaking as somebody who uses the orans posture a lot, I can tell you it also just feels right: maybe since it’s not a gesture we use in other kinds of com­mu­nication it gives a sense of pray­er­fulness that’s hard to get otherwise.

But – other than indicating that all are to stand – Catholic rub­rics (liturgical rules) are silent regarding any official pos­­ture for the rest of the assembly during the Lord’s Prayer at Mass. Many people do not consciously choose any prayer-posture at all, which is hardly a good thing. Some fold hands reverently, a traditional and very accept­able possibility. Many find holding their hands open in front of them, in a “recep­tive” gesture, very prayerful. In some places hand-holding has been tried, but in general it’s not a well-thought-of solu­tion. Aside from its novel­ty, it overemphasizes the human community at the ex­pense of God who’s being addressed. (And, personally, when some people shake their raised, joined hands at the end I find it hard to suppress a giggle! I wonder why they do this? It looks silly!)

The bishops of our country have recommended the “orans” position as an optional posture for everyone in the congre­ga­tion. I do too. More and more people are redis­covering this very traditional posture, and how it en­han­ces the prayer. Feel free to try it if you’re comfortable with it!

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