A Response to: “Should we hold hands or not at the Our Father?”

Holding hands at church

Oh, this is a perennial issue, isn’t it? And, as NCR points out, there are many reasons pro and con about whether a congregation ought hold hands. They are legion.

https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/should-we-hold-hands-or-not-during-our-father

I recall this practice appearing at Jesuit College when I was a novice. Perhaps it was 1968 or 1969. Again, to many it seemed like the best thing since sliced bread. To others, anathema.

Here is my take on it, for those who have been waiting with bated breath for it (!).

Holding hands at the Lord’s Prayer began, I believe, from an impulse toward belonging, connection, and presence to others. It was an expression of the discovery of the horizontal dimension of liturgical praying that emerged after Vatican II.

More than that, it’s a misplaced gesture. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) directs our attention to the place in the liturgy that begs for the union of horizontal and vertical connection – the Eucharistic Prayer, number 78:

  1. Now the center and summit of the entire celebration begins: the Eucharistic Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. The priest invites the people to lift up their hearts to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving. …he unites them with himself in the prayer which, in the name of the entire community, he addresses to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.Furthermore, the meaning of the prayer is that the entire congregation of the faithful should join itself with Christ in confessing the great things God has done and in offering the sacrifice.

Unfortunately, this is the major part of the Mass in which most of the faithful feel most disconnected. It’s the priest’s Mass. And it often feels to me, when I serve as musician, that this is the point at which father attempts to make up time for a longer than intended homily. ZIP! The speed at which many presiders take effectively rules out the prayer of thanksgiving, the calling down of the Holy Spirit, and petitions in favor of the institution narrative.

What folks have shared with me in liturgy workshops is that this is the most boring part of the Mass and that they feel, for the most part, left out.

What would it take to bring the praying of the Eucharistic Prayer back into centrality as the center and summit of the entire celebration? What could it take to allow it to become the prayer of the faithful – presider and congregation – united to one another and giving thanks to the Father with Christ in the Holy Spirit? What sort of conversion might we need?

 

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