Over the past months, we have looked at what happens during Mass and some of the changes that have occurred to the texts as part of the transition to a new English translation of the Roman Missal. Full, conscious and active participation in the Mass, however, involves more than words.
Posture and gestures are also an important aspect of our participation in Mass. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal explains that:
The gestures and posture of the priest, the deacon, and the ministers, as well as those of the people, ought to contribute to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, so that the true and full meaning of the different parts of the celebration is evident and that the participation of all is fostered. (article 42)
Over the course of time, the Church has adopted and integrated different postures and gestures into its liturgical celebrations. These are often indicated in the liturgical books, and may on occasion vary according to different circumstances and pastoral needs.
In adopting the new English translation of the missal, we can and should take time to pay attention to these outward actions and their purpose. Some of them have fallen into disuse in recent times, even though there has always been an expectation they be retained. Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.
Over the coming weeks we will take a closer look at the postures and gestures we are asked to adopt during the celebration of the Mass.