Orans gesture at the Our Father

Back in the day I recall people would hold hands with one another during the Our Father. That seems to have died out, but at my church, about half or so of the people make the orans gesture during the Our Father.

Where does this come from? There’s nothing at all even remotely like it in the traditional mass. Why in the new mass?

I was reading from Ezra 8: 6&7 which made me think of it: Ezra builds a wooden step like a pulpit in the street by the water gate, and reads from the law. The people stand, “And Esdras blessed the Lord the great God: and all the people answered Amen, amen: lifting up their hands: and they bowed down, and adored God with their faces to the ground.”

There are plenty of scriptural references to the lifting up of one’s hands in prayer and worship. It is a posture that was used in Jewish worship and ancient Christian times. It continues to be common among Christians of some cultures. We recently finished a discussion on this topic and I’m not sure I have the energy for it again.

Here is one of the more recent threads that discusses the topic. There are many more.

What new mass is that? :thinking:


The ordinary form… Mass of Paul VI.



Plenty of threads here for you to read through if you’re searching for info.


My admittedly cynical answer?

It’s part of a package of behaviors explicitly meant to de-emphasize the significance of clergy.

It deliberately mimics the priestly posture. Others include replacing “celebrant” with “presider”. Yes, both describe the priest’s role, but the latter de-emphasizes.

I think he means the one from before most of the people here were born . . .


This is actually my guess:

In the Latin Mass, the priest actually does pray the Our Father using the Orans posture. However, he’s facing the Altar.

In the Latin Mass, Father was the only one to pray the Our Father, except for the last line which was first only received by the servers. Then, by the 1960s (not sure when it started) the laity would chant the last line with the servers at the High Mass.

When the 1970 Mass called for everyone to recite the Our Father with the priest, we were essentially joining him to pray a part of the Mass that used to be exclusive to the priest.

So I think it’s natural that some people back in the 1970s thought they should do exactly what the priest was doing.

From there, it grew on it’s own.

God Bless

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What the “traditionalists” tend to miss is that when the Tridentine Mas was promulgation, it not only codified what had previously been liturgical abuses, but assigned to the priest what had historically been some of the people’s parts. This wasn’t so much expropriation as it no longer being clear, and assigning them to the priest just in case it was important to be efficacious. As a practical matter, the records just weren’t available as to which were which, as practice had been to destroy the documents upon promulgation of the newest versions.

I’m not a liturgist, but the Lord’s Prayer seems likely to be one of those–note it’s presence by the people in the surviving early Eastern liturgies. (In fact, it would make little sense not to be by the people in the East, but that’s a topic for another day).

For this reason, I keep my eyes closed through much of the mass. Too many distractions otherwise.

My guess

The orans posture is an ancient tradition still used by the Maronite laity during the Our Father. (Google Maronite orans)

Because some objected to people holding hands during the Our Father, the US bishops adopted the Maronite posture to discourage handholding. This was during the translation of the 2nd edition of the Roman Missal, a project that was discarded when the 3rd edition came out; for the 3rd, handholding was less of an issue, so they decided not to designate a posture and leave it to individuals or congregations. (Google Adoremus orans)

The Google suggestions should find articles that back up some of what I am saying.

Now there is no designated posture. If you prefer lifting up your hands to God, do that. If the custom at your church is to hold hands, do that. If you want to ignore the other children of Our Father, close your eyes. I suppose you could stand on your head if you wished to, though that seems disruptive and without precedent, so I would not recommend it.


I never saw anyone doing that in the 70s. It is something I only started seeing about 10-15 years ago.

I have often wanted to ask people exactly why they think they should be doing that. But I don’t.


It’s prohibited for laity to do it by my bishop


I can see some of that, that clergy is in some ways de-emphasized but in others the clergy is emphasized.

The clergy is de-emphasized; by simplification and reduction in the required vestments, the people perform parts of the Mass (the orans gesture, the prayers of the faithful, kiss of peace and so on), music is up to the people in large part, etc.

The clergy on the other hand is emphasized; by facing the people we have to constantly look at him and he looks at us, he is permitted to ad-lib in many places, his personality is showcased, and so on.

What’s the net effect on centrality of the priest? Not sure, but what is certain is that everything else is well stirred up.

It seems to me that it was taken up as the default gesture when people stopped holding hands.

I don’t remember hand holding until the late 80s either, so it also did not come from the mass changes of V2.

So in eastern liturgies, the people make the orans gesture at the our Father?

In some. It is common in Middle-Eastern cultures, regardless of Rite. I’ve seen it in Melkite, Chaldean and Maronite, but it is uncommon in Slavic churches. It is done pretty much universally in the Maronite Church, I think.

It’s not in the “new mass,” either. Just because people are doing something, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an official part of the Mass.


What I mean is that I see it at the ordinary form mass. Some parishes will have more of it and others like an old one I used to attend didn’t have it at all, but I’ve never seen it at the extraordinary form mass. So in that sense it’s a “new mass” phenomenon.

This kind of gets around to an answer, I suspect. If the Maronites do it universally, and have for centuries (that is, it isn’t a modern novelty), then maybe the pick-up of the gesture in the latin rite is an example of ecumenism in action.

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