Should we or should we not? Fr Ignatius Yeo explains


One posture the faithful can adopt during the Lord’s prayer is to simply put their hands together.

Firstly let us take note of the extract published in the Archdiocese’s webpage (catholic.sg):

“Gesture at the Lord’s Prayer: Liturgical laws have consistently not allowed the holding of hands during the Lord’s Prayer nor the raising of hands in the orans position by the laity. (Senate Minutes, April 2018).

The Church through the Congregation for Divine Worship has consistently taught that “holding hands during the Our Father has become common place, but it is an illicit addition to the Liturgy. Holding hands is a sign of intimacy and not reconciliation, and as such disrupts the flow of the Sacramental signs in the Mass which leads to the Sacramental sign of intimacy with Christ and our neighbour, Holy Communion.”1

The flow of the Sacramentals used during the Mass, like the sign of the cross, the beating of our breast at the I Confess and the Kyrie. A sign of our openness to the word of God particularly at the Gospel when we stand in reverence (Nehemiah 8) and we sign the cross on our forehead, lips and heart. 

Then at the Offertory - the wine and bread are sacramentals of our offerings to the Lord. And Liturgy of the Eucharist - is a whole act of worship and thanksgiving. The Lord’s prayer is a prayer of submission to the will of God, again reconciliation, peace with God and a sign of peace (reconciliation) with one another. All our actions - kneeling, bowing etc at Communion are sacramentals of our worship, thanksgiving, reconciliation and submission to God.

Harmony of gestures within the Mass

Many Catholics might not know that the “extending of hands” or practice of the orans posture at Mass is exclusively a priestly gesture. The rubrics for the Mass give the priest sole authority of praying with elevated hands – not the deacon nor the laity.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states:
After the Eucharistic prayer is concluded, the priest, with hands joined, says alone the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, and then with hands extended, he pronounces the prayer together with the people (GIRM 152).

The orans in history

The orans position has been used as a gesture of pleading and supplication since ancient times, thus it is true that many pagan religions widely adopted it, including Graeco-Roman paganism. The orans position was also present in Judaism as well, and finally the early Christians came to identify the orans position with the outstretched arms of Christ crucified.

Hence, it is solely reserved to the priest at Mass, for he acts in “Persona Christi Capitis” (in the person of Christ the Head) leading the Mystical Body of Christ present at Mass in offering to the Father the perfect prayer and sacrifice of Christ.

Fr Ignatius is a lecturer at the St Francis Xavier Seminary and CTIS, and parish priest of the Church of St Anthony. 

1 See Notitiae, (1975), Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, The Vatican, Vol. XI, P. 226. [this same Notitiae was citied in 1981 US Sacramentary “Appendix- VII. Notices Of The Sacred Congregation For Divine Worship And The Discipline Of The Sacraments (1969-1981)”. Also see “Practical Provisions 6 §2” of the 1997 Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests; The approved US edition of the GIRM was issued in April 2003 and; in 2006, the response to President of the Episcopal Regional Liturgy Commission of CBCMSB received from the Congregation of Divine Worship Prot.N. 134/06/L].

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