Hands raised during segments of the Mass

As a returning Catholic (absent 15 years), I noticed a new (to me) practice of lifting or raising hands during segments of the Liturgy. “We lift them up to the Lord” and also during the Lord’s Prayer. In my travels around the world and attending Mass, I’ve never seen this practiced (outside of a few Church’s in my area).

A priest indicated that it was a practice in the past, and it was optional if you wanted too.

Does anyone know the exact origin of the practice?

You are bringing up something that has been discussed in past threads, and resulted in often heated arguments. If you do a search for “orans” or “orans position” in the search pulldown on this site, you will find several threads discussing it, and some are recent.

I know nothing of the history, but have observed the same as you, that the gesture is used here and there, usually by just some of the people at Mass. I personally like it and think it is a wonderful outward expression of what we should be feeling inside us and of our response to God. But I think you will get some very different responses from other posters. It has something to do with rubrics. Stay tuned, this could be interesting.

Oh, and welcome back.

Apologies. Yes, I should have searched, and I shall do so.

I guess since I opened the “can of worms,” I’ll comment. I respect people’s joy in outward expression, but it is disturbing from another aspect. You have to remember, I came back to the Church (thank God) and walked into a Mass where this is taking place. My first impression is that I walked into a room of evangelical Protestants. Just culture shock mind you. I guess I’m just too old school. I’m one of those still wondering about Vatican II old types.

I’ve been to Mass in France, Italy, Malaysia, and even China…and I’ve not witnessed these hand gestures. Seems like a Protestant influence, but I think there’s a historical reference.

Whoa. Just got back from the search. I suggest everyone just go to them with a flame suit on. No need to rehash here.

All the best!

Welcome to Catholic Answers as well.:wink:

I’m also a revert. I think you’re talking about the part of the Mass right after the gifts are brought up and before the Consecration of the Eucharist.

The priest opens his arms to the laity and repeats Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “Peace be with you” and the laity answers “And peace be with you”.

The priest then says “Lift up your hearts” and the laity says in return “We lift them up to the Lord.”

Jews often physically lifted their arms up in prayer - as did Moses during battle - as did the Jews welcome their Messiah with palms - as did Jesus upon the cross…

Psalm 24:9 reads:

Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter. Who is this king of glory? The LORD, a mighty warrior, the LORD, mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter. Who is this king of glory? The LORD of hosts is the king of glory.


USCCB explains the paragraph:

Lift up your heads, O gates . . . you ancient portals: the literal meaning is impossible since the portcullis (a gate that moves up and down) was unknown in the ancient world.

Extra-biblical parallels suggest a full personification of the circle of gate towers: they are like a council of elders, bowed down and anxious, awaiting the return of the army and the Great Warrior gone to battle.


It is a very ancient Catholic practice that is still in use today, its use is approved by the Catholic Church, and it is used in probably 90% of the Catholic Churches. :thumbsup:

Isn’t it a big statement sufficient prove that it cannot be something really wrong? :slight_smile:

However, the first statement is a very specific reference to the Eastern Catholic Churches and their Liturgies. In the Latin Church the Orans position outside the Sanctuary is not explicitly forbidden and I would find extremely difficult to say that it is theologically incorrect. However, the hand holding is a different can of worms and I do not see any historical reason to justify it, I also think that there are explanations to say that it is theologically wrong during the Liturgy.

When I go to the Eastern Liturgies I use the Orans position, when I go tot the Latin Mass I keep my hands clasped together.

If interested in a full explanation of the Mass from Sacred Scripture, I saw a program last night on EWTN Live that you might find interesting.


Fr. Mitch talked with Edward Sri on “EWTN Live” about his new book on the new wording of the Mass.


Sri’s book is titled:

“A Biblical Walk Through the Mass (Book): Understanding What We Say and Do In The Liturgy”

In “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass”, Dr. Edward Sri takes us on a unique tour of the Liturgy.

Based on the revised translation of the Mass which goes into effect Advent, 2011, this book explores the biblical roots of the words and gestures we experience in the Liturgy and explains their profound significance.

This intriguing look at the Mass is sure to renew your faith and deepen your devotion to the Eucharist.

Actually, the practice comes from ancient times, before air conditioning was invented. Being in a crowded building with hordes of people is HOT. So, they used to raise their hands to try to dry their armpits out and, in so doing, keep the stink out. Some poor soul thought they were trying to reach God or something, so it kind of stuck for a while. (okay, I’m removing my tongue out of my cheek. LOL)

Personally, I find it unnecessary and distracting. The focus shouldn’t be on “me” but on Jesus in the Eucharist.

I was always taught to keep my hands to myself!

If hand holding and arm raising is part of the NO mass ritual, can someone post some links to some references from our Bishops on this matter? It’s a bit confusing trying to search the forums too…I keep bouncing around links with out finding the search I try to do. (I’m new here)

So you are saying that when the people lift their arms in the Eastern Catholic Churches the focus is on the “me” and not on the Eucharist?

Well… not to speak for Scoobyshme but… I really doubt that more than the very rare person is making these gestures as a sign of communion with the Eastern Churches. :wink: If you base it on my parish, I doubt that many of these people (who are fortunately not the majority) even know about the Eastern Catholic Churches.

But even giving them the benefit of the doubt, introducing an Eastern practice at a Latin rite Mass can be distracting. I am guessing that at an Eastern Divine Liturgy most people would be doing this at the same time and unlikely to draw attention to themselves. At a Latin rite Mass, any action that pulls the focus away from the Mass and onto the actions of a few is bound to be distracting and may not be the best idea.

I completely agree with the comment “I really doubt that more than the very rare person is making these gestures as a sign of communion with the Eastern Churches.”

I also completely agree with the comment “But even giving them the benefit of the doubt, introducing an Eastern practice at a Latin rite Mass can be distracting”

However, I disagree with the comment “The focus shouldn’t be on “me” but on Jesus in the Eucharist” independently of Eastern or Latin Church. I think that to a lot of people it is a position of praise and supplication to the Lord (vertical). Hand holding is a different story (horizontal).

I simply ask people to consider the two gestures as separate and to be so kind to discuss them as such.

Colin Donovan, VP of Apologetics for EWTN, explains it here:

Among the laity this practice began with the charismatic renewal. Used in private prayer it has worked its way into the Liturgy. It is a legitimate gesture to use when praying, as history shows, however, it is a private gesture when used in the Mass and in some cases conflicts with the system of signs which the rubrics are intended to protect. The Mass is not a private or merely human ceremony. The symbology of the actions, including such gestures, is definite and precise, and reflects the sacramental character of the Church’s prayer. As the Holy See has recently pointed out, confusion has entered the Church about the hierarchical nature of her worship, and this gesture certainly contributes to that confusion when it conflicts with the ordered sign language of the Mass.


As has been pointed out by clergy on CAF in many past threads, the GIRM (to be redundant, Roman Rite) prohibits laity from bringing innovations into the liturgy when the rubrics are silent about those, regardless of what was done in temple worship in ancient Judaism, and what was or is done in any Eastern Rite. This interpretation is from several different members of the clergy, in different dioceses, over the last 6 years. They would know way better than any lay person here, how to interpret the General Instructions.

In any case, I find it extremely distracting when people do this. Also, I have never seen it done (in my own many experiences) in any way except to draw attention to the person engaging in it. It’s as if people need their own theater at Mass. I remember fairly recently at a liturgical celebration which drew more people than usual, a couple of women on either side of me used the occasion to practically engage in their own public hand-dance – with elaborate hand gestures. And the weird thing was, they were not even facing the altar, like the rest of us! Rather, they were tilting their body to the side, semi-facing the congregation! Talk about wanting an audience. Not to be distracted by it would have required me to keep my eyes closed during the entire Mass.

The theater is the altar. The protagonist of the event is Jesus Christ himself, with the narrator being the priest. And the priest, using the Orans position, acts on our behalf. He doesn’t need our “help.”
I can understand people doing this at a charismatic Mass, not a traditional Sunday Mass, whether NO or EF or whatever. Because, as Colin points out in the rest of the article, the Roman liturgy strives for unity and for representation by the ministerial priesthood, with the congregation participating by silent assent and voiced assent, not with some people doing some gestures, other people doing other random gestures, and another group reserved and uncomfortable.

At Protestant services, there is nothing particularly sacred going on in the sanctuary, in that there’s no sacrifice being remembered, no Real Presence being realized, etc. Generally, it’s about the preaching from the pulpit or sanctuary area, sometimes a choir facing the congregation from that location, and the solemnity which characterizes Roman Catholic celebrations is absent. There may be fervor and much else that is laudable, and a great deal of fellowship and unity, but it is a different expression of unity than what occurs in the Roman Rite. And at such services there is often a great deal (usually unanimous) hand-waving or hand-raising, and a great deal of emotion expressed. Valid for those communities, those are nevertheless celebrations of an entirely different character than what a lay Catholic should be able to expect as distinctly and profoundly different from that.

Scooby, you’re a scream!!! ROFL at that one!

It doesn’t explain its use in one church I frequent during the week: That church is located off of Lake Erie, is an old church, and is COLD except in July and August. Even in those months it’s pleasantly cool. Maybe its temperature is the reason for the banks of devotional candles scattered through the church with mostly lit candles! Holy Saturday promises to be chilly and rainy; I’m sure they’ll have a big New Fire brazier to ignite.

Okay, I digress: I don’t know why the laity assume the orans position. I always thought that was reserved for the priest celebrant. I suppose if Rome says it’s okay, it’s okay, but I personally find it to be just one more distraction that catches my eye. And I don’t know how you can hold a missalette and assume the orans position. I usually have some form of printed material in my hands, and would probably drop it if I tried it. So I don’t.

Please enlighten us with the patristic documents about it.

The orans position for laymen was unknown until the late nineties; before that it was the supposed position of the priests. We laymen were supposed to kneel striking out breast., or bow our heads with humility, and keep our hands together when praying.

The orans position especially during the Our Father took the place of the previous hand holding. That was suggesting that we the people are the Church. The orans position suggest that any individual is capable to reach God on his/her own.

The Catholic faith is, that that we are dependent of the Church, the Pope, the bishops and the priests for the salvation, we are completely insufficient in ourselves.

It is a very ancient Catholic practice that is still in use today, its use is approved by the Catholic Church, and it is used in probably 90% of the Catholic Churches

Don’t mean to pile on here, but I’m guessing you mean 90% of churches in the U.S. I haven’t seen this in my attendance at Mass around the world. Didn’t see much of the practice attending Mass at the Vatican or Lourdes this last year.

After reading all the search threads on the subject, I’m still going back to my slice of time on this planet as a Catholic (40 years). I think the raised hands are not for me.

The Latin Church is one out of 22 that means that it is about 5% of the Catholic Churches. Just because that Latin Church does not do things that way does not mean that they are not approved or old traditions. We also must remember that kneeling is just a Latin thing and so I would not be so presumptuous that it is what laymen have to do across the Catholic Church. I made it quite clear that while some things are not part of the Latin Rite that does not mean that they are not part of the Catholic heritage.

It only is mandated for the priests. It’s actually prohibited for the deacon during the Lord’s Prayer. The posture of the laity, however, isn’t tightly regulated. Never really has been, either.

Raised hands during a Mass of the Latin rite are not for me either. To me is almost singing the national anthem of a different country at a baseball game in Chicago. I love to hear the Italian National anthem at the soccer world cup but it would make me cringe at a Cubs’ game.

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