Toward the end
of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest prays, "May all of us who
share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by
the Holy Spirit. ... Make us grow in love." We were privileged
to be present at the consecration when the bread and wine were changed
into the body and blood of Christ. Now we ask to be made, ourselves,
into the body of Christ. By baptism, we have already entered into that
reality. However, through the example of Jesus' self-giving in love
and the nourishment we are about to receive, we long to grow more deeply
in communion with one another.
invites us to pray the words of Jesus in the "Our Father."
This is the prayer Jesus Himself taught us, and because of that, it's
the model prayer for the Church. How should we pray it?
A lot has been
said in popular writing about our gestures at this point of the Mass.
Do we fold our hands, or hold them outstretched, or hold hands with
those around us? Some people have surprisingly strong feelings about
this issue. Our answer to this question needs to come from the Church's
understanding of this moment in the Mass.
The priest stands
with his arms outstretched as the prayer begins. The assembly should
also stand. There are no options for gestures listed in the General
Instruction for this part of the Mass. For many persons, folding their
hands during the "Our Father" is the best way to express their
prayer. For others, they may hold their hands outstretched. Still others
None of these
gestures is mandated or forbidden by the Church. So our guiding principles
should be respect for the dignity of the Mass, and respect for the freedom
of our fellow worshipers.
Some people feel
that holding hands during the "Our Father" enhances a sense
of community. This is perfectly appropriate so long as it can
be done with dignity and without the unseemly acrobatics that sometimes
For other people,
holding hands is a kind of intimacy they reserve for family members.
It makes them uncomfortable to hold hands during Mass, and they prefer
not to do it. This is also perfectly appropriate. A parish may have
several ways of praying the "Our Father," depending on the
people who take part in a specific Mass. No one should feel coerced,
and the beauty of the liturgy should always be observed.
We have seen before
that the Mass is rich with symbols and signs. The beauty and centrality
of the Eucharist, which our Lord entrusted to the Church for all times
and all peoples, should always be evident in every celebration of the
Mass. Thus, those involved in liturgical education should take special
care not to allow their private preferences to influence their work.
The liturgy is
the public worship of the whole Church, not merely the local community.
And it is God's gift through Jesus Christ and His Church
to all the faithful, who have a right to the truth and an obligation
to ask for it.