I came across an article recently that dealt with this “touchy” subject of holding hands and the Orans position during Mass. The article sparked lots of debate and a multitude of comments, hundreds of them in fact. The articles also elicited tens of thousands of shares, and I was struck by how such a seemingly minor aspect of the Mass could become such a hot bed of debate and contention.
I was also saddened by so many of the comments from individuals justifying why they prefer such a position and why they will continue the practice. I was saddened by just how self-absorbed and self-serving the motivations were for the continuation of this practice, even in light of what the rubrics and disciplines of Church have dictated or not dictated on that matter. It became clear to me, that the position we hold in gestures during Mass is not the issue here, but the disposition of our heart while participating at Mass is.
This disposition, that is erroneous at best and apostasy at worst, is what has been causing so many of our Catholic brothers and sisters to modern and “hip” mega churches and independent congregations. The need to “be fed” or “get something out of it” plagues our society on a whole and has now infiltrated our interior lives, or what we might have or not have as an interior life. Christian rock concerts and skilled orators are not worship, they never have been, and seeking such, in lieu of what the Catholic Church offers in the form of the Sacrifice of the Mass, is superficial and outright disobedient to God.
The fact that so many of us think we should be “getting something out of Mass” demonstrates just how ignorant or neglectful we are of the Truth that lies within these mysteries celebrated there. That so many expect to be fed, without seeking the food that must sustain us throughout our everyday life is alarming and disturbing. We should not go to Mass expecting to be catered to with good music, skilled homilies and welcoming warm congregants. If we do so, we are missing the entire point of the last 4000 years plus of salvation history as a whole. We come to Mass on Sunday to worship, praise and offer thanksgiving to God, not to partake in an exchange that provides us with something in return. That should not be the expectation. When it is, we truly miss the great gifts and power that we will assume if we approach the Mass the way we ought: in humility before our God, with praise, worship and thanksgiving for nothing other than our very existence and reliance on Him alone! When we approach Christ himself in the Eucharist, in the most intimate of physical exchanges with the Almighty and Everlasting God, the ideas and notions of music and rhetoric should no longer matter or even be a thought in our head. We are receiving God himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, why in the world would holding hands during the Our Father and the song sung during communion even matter at that point. The climax of the consecration should bewilder and amaze us. It should be taking our breath away, but instead, I see my brothers and sisters looking in their purses, nudging the person beside them and engaging in idle chatter. Really? The King of the universe and creator of the heavens and earth has just become present on the altar and we are worried about who we will be holding hands with during the Our Father. No wonder, our Church and our world is in the state it is in.
We really must lose this self-absorbed demeanor and look deeper into what makes us the Body of Christ. Once we do that, and truly understand and recognize what happens on that altar during Mass, nothing will keep us away from it. Then, during that prayer the Lord gave to us himself, we will understand that it is a profession of Faith that we alone make to the Father, it is of horizontal orientation as we lift up ourselves to our Father in Heaven. The orans position the priest assumes symbolizes his gathering of all these individual prayers together as he lifts them as one to the Father. We profess this prayer as individuals together united as a community, we then proceed to the community act of fellowship with the sign of peace. We become what we worship. What many of us worship is ourselves, even during Mass. Our inattentiveness and distractions with ourselves is what keeps us from the divine transformation that will truly feed us, and give us something. What it will give us is not just a feel good emotion that may lift us, but a deep and profound awaking that will elicit the divine in our everyday lives.
As we approach the altar this Sunday, let us recognize who it is we are receiving, and focus on that. When we do, Truth will reign in song, word and gesture, no matter what.