Deacon's posture during the Epiclesis


I visited a parish recently when I noticed something that was new to me. The deacon stood behind and to the side of the priest at the altar as I have always seen during Eucharistic Prayer. While the priest said the Epiclesis, the deacon took the orans posture.

I thought the orans was reserved for the priest celebrant and was not for the deacon at all. Another visitor who was with me remarked on the same thing and spoke of seeing that at another parish in a different part of the country.

Is this an approved change in the liturgy?


No it’s not at all appropriate. The deacon should be to the right of the celebrant and slightly behind, standing with hands together. At the epiclesis he is to kneel until after the elevation of the challis, if he is able to do so. It is acceptable for physical reasons to stand through the epiclesis. If there are two deacons they should hold the same posture to appear uniform. There is no time while standing next to the priest that you should see a deacon use the orans posture, not even during the Lord’s Prayer, his hands should be joined together at his chest.

This should be the same posture you see the deacon in almost the entire Mass. We see all kinds of gestures in Mass made by deacons, as if they are the celebrant. Remember, the reinstatement of the permanent diaconate is still in its fledgling stages and many bishops, priests, and especially deacons are still “learning” how to utilize deacons in Liturgy; it’s an on going education process to correct some of these issues. Part of the problem is there are so many inconsistencies within the priesthood where it comes to Liturgy. We have much to improve to bring the Sacred back into the Sacred Eucharistic Celebration.

In the case you mention, I would suggest trying to contact the pastor to try to advise the deacon in a way that is not a direct confrontation with you; that would not be fruitful. If you don’t feel you can do that, pray for the Grace to be able to ignore it and for the improvement of the formation program of your diocese and the continuing education of the current deacons.


not that I doubt what you say but what does the GIRM or other juridical Church document say about the stance of the deacon in the sanctuary during the Eucharistic prayer.


Ditto Deacon Lapey.

The deacon kneels at the epiclesis (if physically able, which may be an issue with many aging deacons) and remains kneeling until the priest rises from his bow after the elevation of the chalice (here again, the priest should genuflect if able, but many merely now bow).

No where is the orans posture directed for the deacon, and during the Our Father the deacon is to remain with hands folded.

I have seen some “older” deacons who are unable to kneel, adopt other postures at the epiclesis (i.e. profound bow or merely a head bow) as a sign of reverence but I can’t imagine that using the orans posture during the prayers of consecration would ever be appropriate.


Quite wrong.


This thought makes my skin crawl.


Georgia, are you sure it was a deacon and not a concelebrating priest? What you describe sounds like the latter.



It sure looked like concelebrating, but it was not. I met the deacon before Mass, so there was no doubt as to his office.He was vested as a deacon and was so listed at the parish.

My friend from another parish mentioned seeing the same thing elsewhere. I can only guess that an earlier post hit the nail on the head. There may be errors from time to time with the relatively new use of permanent deacons.


Was the parish you visited in Georgia?

You won’t see this in Kennesaw, nor in Woodstock.



I like to give my brother deacons the benifit of the doubt. Deacons who are older and cannot get up easily are not required to kneel during Epiclesis.
As far as the the orans possition, I would want to know were his hands and arms were. Were they close to his body with palms up, I wouldn’t consider it the orans possition but perhaps just his way of respectful prayer.
If his hands were and arms were away from his body and elevated, then there could be an issue, however, there is not direction for the deacon if he does not kneel. Perhaps as the MC of the mass in his posture he is directing the congregation to focus on the altar.

Just an FYI to my brothers, even during the Lord’s Prayer the deacon is not prohibted from the orans possition and at least my ordinary has approved his deacons to do so, as is the customn in the majority of our parishes by the layity.

Deacon Frank


I can assure you in my diocese it is prohibited. The orans position is a posture of the priest at the altar.

This is also not a time for personal devotions as you point out could be a reason for the posture. If I am in the pew with my wife my posture is less important; however, if I am at the altar my personal devotions or posture preferences should be avoided.

I can see your point though. There is limited information of the full situation here.

Glad we agree on the kneeling/not kneeling part at least.


To answer FAB’s question: The deacon’s hands were up, about face level with the arms extended.


The OP says he had his arms extended. This sounds more like a concelebration. I really can’t imagine a deacon do this, but strange things do happen.

Before I was thinking less of a personal devotion and more of the Deacon as MC directing the congregation’s attention to the altar, but that doesn’t sound like the case.


Do you know if he was a permenant or transitional deacon. Is transitional, in some part it would explain the posture, even though still not correct.


I’m not going to get my panties in a bunch over some deacons chosing to pray the Our Father in the orans position. However, please take note of the following:
"the Holy See has been concerned about the laity unduly aping the priest at Mass, and in the 1997 Instruction on Collaboration, an unprecedented conjunction of Vatican dicasteries wrote:

[INDENT]6 § 2. To promote the proper identity (of various roles) in this area, those abuses which are contrary to the provisions of canon 907 deacons and lay persons are not permitted to say the prayers, especially the eucharistic prayer, nor to perform the actions which are proper to the celebrating priest."] are to be eradicated. In eucharistic celebrations deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers — e.g. especially the eucharistic prayer, with its concluding doxology — or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest. Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant. It is a grave abuse for any member of the non-ordained faithful to “quasi preside” at the Mass while leaving only that minimal participation to the priest which is necessary to secure validity. (emphasis partially mine)
This instruction, incidentally, was approved by John Paul II in forma specifica, meaning that the pope invested it with his own authority and is binding on us with the pope’s authority and not merely the authority of the authoring congregations.

Now, what gestures are proper to the priest celebrant? The orans gesture when praying on behalf of the people is certainly one of them. The priest celebrant and no others (not even concelebrating priests) are directed to make this gesture in the rubrics.

In some places, some laity may spread their arms whenever the priest spreads his in a kind of “Back atcha!” motion. I’ve even seen some do a phenomenal pantomime of tossing an invisible ball to the priest by swooping their palms close together and then spreading them apart as they assume the orans posture. But this is clearly apart from the rubrics.

If the orans posture is one proper to the priest celebrant in the liturgy then the laity should not be imitating it."

Commenting further on this, Father Colin Donovan has this to say:

“The liturgical use of this position by the priest is spelled out in the rubrics (the laws governing how the Mass is said). It indicates his praying on BEHALF of us, acting as alter Christus as pastor of the flock, head of the body. It used to be minutely defined in the rubrics, which now say only, “extends his hands” or “with hands extended.” Priests understand what is meant (from observation and training), and although there is some variability between priests basically the same gesture is obtained from all of them by these words.
In the rubrics the Orans gesture is asked principally of the Main Celebrant, but on those occasions where either a priestly action is done (Eucharistic Prayer) or prayer in common (Our Father) all the concelebrants do it.
It is never done by the Deacon, who does not represent the People before God but assists him who does.” (emphasis added)


Permanent deacon


I understand what you mean now, thanks for the clarification.


Dcn. Jeff, thanks for your research on this thread. This puts it all in perspective with authority. Good job my brother!:thumbsup:


Fascinating post. I learned quite a bit here, but then my gut was right from the get-go–although clergy like the priest, the deacon is not the priest and those gestures that the rubrics say are only for the priest should, therefore, be ONLY for the priest. Deacons would appear to have enough to do in assisting the celebrant.


Although I find this information interesting, it still falls under educated opinion.
I go back to were I always go back to and that is what does my ordinary allows and does not. At a recent gathering of deacons were my ordinary was present, this question of the
gesture of the deacon at the Lord’s prayer was asked, the answer was that the congregation prays with hands extended, the deacon should do the same. Since my ordinary in one of the Cardinals in the United States, I trust his instructions and by extending hands I am no committing a liturgical abuse.
The issue I think for us often as deacons is that even though we my find our best sources, on the gesture during the Lords Prayers by the laity does not have a final answer. The GIRM does not specifically address it and the missal only says “He extends his hands and, together with the people…”, it does not say “only he” . As such, until instructed otherwise,I follow with obedience my ordinary.

Dcn. Frank

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