The Church’s “New Year” (also known as the 1st Sunday of Advent) is nearly upon us. Here at Holy Family, a (mostly) annual ritual at this time of year is to review the postures and gestures through which we participate in the Mass. We have provided an insert in this week’s bulletin summarizing these.
This is not, however, simply a matter of external actions. It is a matter of assisting us in carrying out what the Second Vatican Council described as the “full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations” of all the faithful (“Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” §14). This participation is meant to allow us to enter more deeply into the mystery of our salvation through the sacrifice of Christ:
The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration…. Offering the immaculate victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to offer themselves (§48).
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes how this is to be expressed in the manner of our worship:
[The faithful] are to form one body, whether in hearing the word of God, or by taking part in the prayers and singing, or above all by the common offering of the Sacrifice and by participating together at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and bodily postures observed together by the faithful (§96).
As a people with a sacramental imagination, Catholics understand that the spiritual can be revealed through the physical. The outward signs of our worship are meant to help us achieve the proper interior orientation towards the Lord Jesus, as we join ourselves to His one sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
Thanksgiving Day Events
On Thursday, November 23rd, there is no 7:00 am Mass. We invite the entire parish to a special Mass at 9:00 am to express our thanks to God for His many gifts. Following Mass, there will be a blessing of Thanksgiving food for all who wish to participate. And at 3:00 pm is our 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Feast in the Parish Life Center! If you would like to join us, please fill out the “ticket” in this bulletin and put it in the collection basket – or let the Parish Office know no later than this Monday. I wish all of you a safe and blessed Thanksgiving.
Advent Parish Mission December 2-7
Holy Family is pleased to welcome Father of Mercy Ken Geraci for our Advent Mission this year. Fr. Geraci will preach at all Masses the weekend of December 2-3. The Mission proper, entitled “Why Be Catholic,” will take place Monday through Thursday, December 4th-7th, beginning at 7:00 pm. Fr. Geraci will also offer a version of the mission sessions following the 9:00 am Mass each day.
Each evening, Father will hear confessions beginning at 6:00 pm, as well as after the mission presentation. Each conference will begin with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Thursday evening, however, the conference will be in the context of Mass (the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception).
I look forward to seeing you at the Mission!
Why do Catholics get married in the Church rather than at the beach or in a park?
The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. The presence of the Church’s minister (and also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an ecclesial reality. This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to the ecclesiastical form. Several reasons converge to explain this requirement:
- Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is therefore appropriate that it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church.
- Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children.
- Since marriage is a state of life in the Church, certainty about it is necessary (hence the obligation to have witnesses).
- The public character of the consent protects the “I do” once given and helps the spouses remain faithful to it. (Paragraphs 1630 and 1631)
[Note that in the Catholic understanding of Matrimony, the spouses themselves are the ministers of the sacrament. By making a complete gift of themselves—body, mind, and spirit—they imitate Christ who made a complete gift of Himself for our salvation.]
Gestures and Postures of the Congregation at Mass
In Sacramentum Caritatis (2007), Pope Emeritus Benedict stressed the need for formation and instruction about the Sacred Mysteries of the Eucharist (“mystagogical catechesis”), so that Catholic people will more fully understand and be able to unite themselves interiorly with the action of the Eucharist. The Holy Father specifically mentioned signs and gestures:
The Church’s great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one’s life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world. For this reason, the Synod of Bishops asked that the faithful be helped to make their interior dispositions correspond to their gestures and words. Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in Eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate …. (Sacramentum Caritatis §64)
Part of this instruction about the mystery of the Eucharist, the pope wrote, involves the meaning of ritual gestures:
A mystagogical catechesis must also be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites. This is particularly important in.a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures which, together with the word, make up the rite. (§64b. Original emphasis.)
The vocabulary of ritual gestures Catholics make during worship is by now, quite clearly, endangered – as has happened with other unwritten languages. As there are relatively few explicit rules (and even these are often not followed), little uniformity of practice, and considerable confusion, it seems worthwhile to compile a sort of “dictionary” of ritual gestures, their meaning and grammar, in order to relearn our historic language of ritual worship.
By our ritual gestures – this “body language” – we unite the physical and mental/spiritual aspects of our worship of the Lord, and express our unity with Him with our entire being. Recalling this may help remind each of us to make the effort to restore this ineffable and powerful “form of speech” in our own acts of worship. With our bodies and our minds united, we express our love for Christ and witness to others His love for all.
From “Gesture for Worship – Relearning Our Ritual Language”
Adoremus Bulletin, February 2010
- Make the sign of the cross with holy water (a sign of baptism) upon entering the church.
- Genuflect toward the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament and the Altar of Sacrifice before entering the pew. (If there is no tabernacle in the sanctuary, or it is not visible, bow deeply, from the waist, toward the altar before entering the pew.)
- Kneel upon entering the pew for private prayer before Mass begins.
- Stand for the entrance procession.
- Bow when the crucifix, a visible symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, passes you in the procession. (If there is a bishop, bow when he passes, as a sign of recognition that he represents the authority of the Church and of Christ as shepherd of the flock.).
- Remain standing for the entrance rites. Make the sign of the cross with the priest at the beginning of Mass.
- Strike your breast at the “mea culpa” (“through my fault”) in the Confiteor.
- Bow your head when you say “Lord, have mercy” during the Kyrie.
- If there is a Rite of Sprinkling (Asperges), make the sign of the cross when the priest sprinkles water from the aspergillum in your direction.
- Throughout the Mass, bow your head at every mention of the name of Jesus or Mary and every time the 3 Persons of the Trinity are named together.
Liturgy of the Word
- Sit for the Scripture readings.
- Stand for the Gospel at the Alleluia verse.
- When the priest or deacon announces the Gospel, trace a cross with the thumb on head, lips and heart. This gesture is a form of prayer for the presence of the Word of God in one’s mind, upon one’s lips, and in one’s heart.
- Sit for the homily.
- Creed: Stand; on most Sundays bow during the Incarnatus (“and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man”); on the solemnities of Christmas and the Annunciation all genuflect at this moment.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
- Sit during the offertory.
- Stand as the priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice …” and remain standing to respond, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands…”
- If incense is used, the congregation bows toward the thurifer when he bows to the congregation both before and after he has incensed them.
- The congregation remains standing until the end of the Sanctus (“Holy, holy”), when they kneel for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.
- At the moment of the Consecration of each element, bow the head and say silently “My Lord and my God,” acknowledging the Presence of Christ on the altar. These are the words of Saint Thomas when he realized that it was truly Christ who stood before him (John 20:28). Jesus responded, “Because you have seen me, you believed. Blessed are they that do not see and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
- Stand at the priest’s invitation to recite the Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster).
- Reverently fold your hands and bow your head as you pray the Lord’s Prayer. Holding hands is optional.
- Remain standing to exchange the sign of peace, if the invitation is made. (The sign of peace may be either a handshake or a bow of the head towards those nearest you, accompanied by the words, “Peace be with you.”)
- Kneel at the end of the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God …”).
- Bow your head and strike your breast as you say, Domine non sum dignus ... (“Lord, I am not worthy …”)
Reception of Communion
Leave the pew (without genuflecting) and walk reverently toward the altar, with hands folded. Join in the Communion Hymn when it starts. Make a gesture of reverence as you approach the priest, deacon, or Extraordinary Minister in procession to receive Communion. (In The United States the bishops have asked that you bow as your approach the minister.)
- If you are receiving on the tongue, after the minister has said “The Body of Christ”, say “Amen” before extending your tongue out of your mouth. Please do not move until the host is in your mouth.
- If you are receiving in the hand, please use 2 hands, placing one hand over the other, making a throne to receive your King. With the lower hand, take the host and reverently place it in your mouth.
- If you are carrying a child, or otherwise do not have both hands free, please receive on the tongue. It is both safer and more reverent.
- If your hands are not clean, you are wearing a cast, or your clothing covers part of your hands, please receive on the tongue.
- If you also receive from the chalice, make the same gesture of reverence when you approach the minister to receive. After saying, “Amen,” please reverently take the chalice with two hands.
- Kneel when you return to your pew after Communion, until the Eucharist is placed back in the tabernacle.
Conclusion of Mass
- Stand for the prayer after Communion.
- Make the sign of the cross at the final blessing, as the priest invokes the Trinity.
- Remain standing until all ministers have processed out. (If there is a recessional, bow in reverence to the crucifix as it passes by.)
- If there is a hymn for the recessional, remain standing in your pew until it concludes.
- If there is no concluding hymn, remain in your pew until all the ministers have gone out of the main body of the church.
- After the Mass is concluded, you may kneel for a private prayer of thanksgiving.
- Genuflect reverently toward the Blessed Sacrament and the Altar of Sacrifice as you leave the pew, and leave the nave (main body) of the church in silence.
- Make the sign of the cross with holy water as you leave the church, a reminder of our baptismal obligation to carry Christ’s Gospel into the world.
© 2010 – Adoremus. Note: permission is granted to reproduce this for personal or parish use. For other uses, contact Adoremus – PO Box 300561, St. Louis, MO 63130
Phone: 314 863-8385; E-mail email@example.com
This guide has been adapted in accordance with the new translation of the Roman Missal for Holy Family Catholic Church, Jacksonville, FL, November 2012. Further revised November 2017.