A discussion that is common in Catholic parishes between the more orthodox members of the parish and the more “progressive” members is whether or not the faithful should use the Orans Posture during the Our Father. When such a question comes up, the obvious solution is to go to the rubrics. Unfortunately, in this case, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) is relatively silent on the topic. Because of the GIRM’s silence, many people have taken this to mean that the faithful may do whatever they want. However, this is not the case. In the document, Instruction On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests, put out by the Vatican on August 15, 1997, we read,
“In eucharistic celebrations deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers — e.g., especially the eucharistic prayer, with its concluding doxology — or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest. Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant. It is a grave abuse for any member of the non-ordained faithful to “quasi preside” at the Mass while leaving only that minimal participation to the priest which is necessary to secure validity” (ICP Practical Provisions 6 §2).
What the above statement means is that we may not say the Eucharistic prayers along with the priest. More importantly to this topic, this also means the faithful may not use the same gestures that are reserved for the priest celebrant. The Sacramentary (the book of prayers for Mass used by the priest) states that the celebrant is to pray the Our Father with hands extended. Looking back at ICP, the faithful are NOT to use gestures or actions proper to the priest celebrant.
The next time you are at Mass, watch the priest’s gestures closely. Anytime he offers prayers on behalf of the faithful, he uses the Orans Posture. Anytime he is offering other prayers, his hands are folded together. Having a better understanding of what particular gestures mean will lead to a better understanding of the Liturgy.
Read more in the “Why Do We Do That?” series from Deacon Mike Fritz.