I was at Mass on a recent Sunday and something occurred to me during the Lord’s Prayer. Most people in the assembly were holding hands, except me and my family, and I realized that if I were an outsider, I would think the Lord’s Prayer was the most important part of the Mass. Let me explain:
Now, the entire Mass is actually centered on the sacrifice of Christ presented in the Eucharist; and all the prayers, words, gestures, actions, posturese, and symbols revolve around that – or at least should. The Mass is the central act of Christian life and these should reflect what we believe in our doctrines. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi (The rule of prayer is the rule of faith).
I’ve been trying to figure out why people hold hands at the Our Father at Mass. Perhaps the thinking is that since we say “Our” Father, then we hold hands to show our unity praying with one voice as a community. Well, yes, but many of the other prayers at mass are plural first person as well, and we don’t hold hands during those times. Maybe it got adapted from the basic Orans posture (hands extended with palms up) and then people thought it was an invitation to hold hands. Most people do it now (and when I used to do it) because everybody else does it and they just assume it’s something we’re supposed to do.
Well, the liturgical documents don’t mention it as something we should do. Furthermore, if the reason is that makes it feel more like a community, why at that point? This gets me to my original point: I notice that this is the time when we the response of the assembly is loudest; everybodyis saying it and were all holding hands doing it. It’s as if this were the most important part of the Mass for some people – the only time they get something out of it. I hope that’s not the case, but maybe the hand-holding emphasizes this. Of course it is an important prayer and it is the prayer that Christ gave us, but it is of course not the pinnacle of the liturgical celebration.
Another reason we shouldn’t hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer is that it de-emphasizes the act that comes right after that: the sign of peace. Why would I need to give a sign of peace (shaking hands, etc) with someone if I just held their hand during a prayer? Also, the real community we will participate in is when we receive the Body of Christ. That is when we are mystically joined together in a more real and stronger sense than the holding of hands. That is one of the reasons it is called “communion”.