Let us take a look at some common practices that you might be doing incorrectly during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Ordinary Form.
1. Genuflecting towards the Altar when the Tabernacle is not behind the Altar
As Catholics we genuflect towards the Tabernacle as a sign of reverence for Christ our King except on Good Friday up until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal States:
“A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.” (274)
Before the Second Vatican Council the Tabernacle was behind the altar, but now it has become more common for churches to have the Tabernacle off to the side in a separate space distinct from the central or middle section of the church. This is the result of a recommendation stated in the document, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharist Mystery (Eucharisticum Mysterium), (53). If the Tabernacle is off to the side when we genuflect it should be angled towards the Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reposed, not towards the Altar. The gesture we make towards the Altar if the Blessed Sacrament is not reserved in a Tabernacle located behind the Altar, is a profound bow not genuflection.
2. Using the Orans Posture
During the Mass the Orans Posture is to be used by the celebrant, and the celebrant alone. The Orans Posture is when hands are extended outward and upward, and is to be used when the priest is offering prayers on behalf of the faithful. In Article 6 §2, of the document, Instruction On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests it states:
"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.”
Anytime that the celebrant is using the Orans Posture position deacons, concelebrating priests, and members of the lay faithful should not use this position too. During the Lord’s Prayer, and when the response is “And with your Spirit,” the laity should not extend and uplift their arms as well as during any other part of the Mass. In Canon 907 we read:
“In the celebration of the Eucharist, deacons and lay persons are not permitted to say the prayers, especially the eucharistic prayer, nor to perform the actions which are proper to the celebrating priest.”
As members of the laity we do not have the authority to change the Liturgy as we see fit just the same as a priest does not have the authority to change the Liturgy as he sees fit.(Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22.3). It is not our own personal Liturgy. The word, “Liturgy” is derived from the Greek term, which means “public work or work done on behalf of the people.” Liturgy directly relates to community. When members of the laity use the Orans Posture they are adding to the Liturgy since the position is only stated in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal as “with hands extended,” which is an instruction for the priest.
3. Changing Our Posture Early
In the Dioceses of the United States we are to kneel at the end of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) and remain kneeling until the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer. (GIRM, 43) It is also after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), that we kneel. (SSC, 40; Varietates legitimae 41)
When we choose to kneel at our own times we are disrupting uniformity and bringing attention to ourselves and taking the focus away from Christ. We are allowing our egos to get the best of us when we choose to personally change the Liturgy. As mentioned previously we do not have the authority to change the Liturgy to the way we think it should be changed. The Liturgy is about us coming together as the People of God to participate in the Work of God.
4. Dressing Immodestly
The clothing fashion of today most often is designed to reveal, not to conceal our bodies, and as Christians we should want to dress in a way that enhances our human dignity. Pope Piux XII wrote an article in 1957, which read:
“The Church knows and teaches that the human body, which is God's masterpiece in the visible world, and which has been placed at the service of the soul, was elevated by the Divine Redeemer to the rank of a temple and an instrument of the Holy Spirit, and as such must be respected. The body's beauty must therefore not be exalted as an end in itself, much less in such guise as will defile the dignity it has been endowed with.” (Moral Problems in Fashion Design)
We often forget that when we go to Mass we are physically in the presence of God Almighty. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, in Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, as True God and true man is before us in the Eucharist. Dressing modestly as sons and daughters of the King is a sign of reverence in the House of the Lord. When we go to Mass we should dress in a way that does not bring the focus on ourselves, and instead brings glory to our Savior.
5. Reading the Bulletin or Texting During the Homily
We are called as Catholics to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which includes listening and being attentive during the priest’s homily. If we are reading the bulletin or texting on our cell phones, we are missing out on receiving insight on the meaning of the Gospel that was proclaimed that day, and how it relates to our lives. The GIRM states:
“The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is highly recommended,[cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 52, canon law 767§1] for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life.” (65)
I have heard Catholics complain that the homily is boring or they do not understand the priest if he has a foreign accent, but have these same people ever prayed for more vocations to the priesthood.The men before us have chosen to give their lives to serve Christ and His Church; some even leaving behind their family and friends in another country to be here with us in the United States. We should be thankful for them instead of complaining about them. If we want a greater variety of priests, then pray for more priests.