Skip to comments.Living on the ritual edge?the wild world of crossings and bowings
Posted on 11/12/2006 8:16:37 AM PST by sionnsar
As touching kneeling, crossing, holding up of handes, knocking upon the brest, and other gestures: they may be used or left as every mans devocion serveth without blame. Thus states the first and second Edwardian Books of Common Prayer. It is unclear to me if this statement is directed principally to celebrants and officiants or to all participants; but it witnesses to a time when ritual gesturing was still very much alive in the life of the Church.
Since becoming Catholic I have been surprised by one difference between Latin-rite Catholic worship and Anglo-Catholic worship: the latter is more active. Contemporary Catholics simply do not involve themselves in the liturgy through ritual gestures. This is odd, given the encouragement of Vatican II of full and active participation in the liturgy. In the good ole days, the celebrant was rubrically mandated to perform all sorts of ritual gestures. In The Shape of the Liturgy, Dom Gregory Dix relates that his grandmother, a devout Wesleyan, believed to her dying day that at the Roman Catholic mass the priest let a crab loose upon the altar, which it was his mysterious duty to prevent from crawling sideways into the view of the congregation. The reform of the liturgy eliminated most of the gestures of the celebrant, with the laity now imitating his ritual inactivity, resulting in a disembodied, static, boring liturgy of words, words, and words.
But Catholic worshippers can help improve the liturgy now, immediately, without waiting for the eschatological reform of the reform. All they need do is take a page from the Anglo-Catholic playbook and start gesturing like mad. Suddenly you will find yourself worshipping more fully and more actively, despite the liturgy, despite the celebrant, despite yourself. The first place to begin is with the sign of the cross. Why restrict yourself to the opening invocation, gospel, and closing blessing? Live on the edge! Push the ritual envelope! Make a gratuitous sign of the cross! I know. It feels wild and irresponsible, but be of good courage and step out in the freedom of the Spirit. Cross yourself! But when, you ask. Okay, I know its helpful to have some suggestions. Fortunately, Anglo-Catholics have blazed the trailor perhaps more accurately, remembered the trailfor all of us. In addition to the three occasions mentioned above, Anglo-Catholics also make the sign of the cross at the conclusion of the Gloria in exclesis (in the glory of God the Father), at the conclusion of the Nicene Creed (the life of the world to come), at the Benedictus qui venit (Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord), at the consecratory elevations, and at the presentation of the Holy Gifts to the congregation. And this is just the beginning. Once you have mastered these difficult gesturing moments, look for other opportunities within the liturgy to cross yourself.
After you experience the joy of crossings, you may then want to take a step into the exciting world of bowings. Just think to yourself: at the name of Jesus
Be bold. You dont need a rubrical command. You dont need the permission of the priest. Gesture!
What are your practices?
No wonder everybody in church looks at me funny! I do ALL those things, and always have!
It's contagious, though, some other folks are doing it too now.
(Now if you could get them to elevate the liturgy...)
I was pleased to see when visiting St. Marks Catholic the other week, (is your daughter attending there now?) that a majority of the congregation was now kneeling, standing, crossing and genuflecting at the appropriate times. Very few stood at the back with their arms crossed. This is good progress back toward sound worship!
I will say this, I visited a couple of weeks ago for parents' day, and Monsignor and his new parochial vicar (a very devoted young man just out of seminary) are VERY orthodox, and the church is full of nice young people with big families!
Orthodox practice varies, but there are general common elements. We cross ourselves
1, At every invocation or mention of the Holy Trinity (by the names of the three persons that is), which happens many times throughout the services.
2. At the beginning of the Our Father
3. From one to five times during the Creed, depending on the tradition
4. At various points during the Anaphora/Consecration
5. When venerating,kissing, or being blessed by holy objects or icons
...OK, I'm quitting... this is going to take too long, since I'm still just on the sign of the Cross, and there's miles to go when that is done...
Ha! There isn't enough bandwidth available to catelog our liturgical gestures! We cross ourselves almost continually during prayer, certainly everytime the Trinity or Panagia is mentioned and generally three times each. We cross ourselves three times each at every "Holy God,+++ Mighty God,+++ Immortal God+++ have mercy on us. We cross ourselves in the Creed at "And in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" +++, we do deep bows with arms crossed. We do full body prostrations during the Prayer of +Ephraim the Syrian. We do metanias, which is touching the floor and crossing ourselves. We of course kiss icons, the priest's hand, the crucifix, each other (X2 with the Greeks, X3 with the Arabs and Ethiopians). The Arabs especially pray the Our Father with their arms and hands in the "orans" position. The Ethiopians remove their shoes before entering the nave of the church. Want more? :)
Do you cross yourselves backwards like the Latins and do you use two or three fingers? :)
This is funny. I always felt a bit odd crossing myself during the service, because I thought it was too "Catholic".
And don't forget to call out "Amen!" when the priest says something right!
And raise your hands and sway, as the Spirit moves ...
"Do you cross yourselves backwards like the Latins
Hey, I resemble that remark. :)"
Doing the cross backwards is no biggy, though its interesting how that came about. But the fingers! Well, that one tore the Russian Church in two!
"And don't forget to call out "Amen!" when the priest says something right!
And raise your hands and sway, as the Spirit moves ..."
Amen, Hallelujah, you preach it to 'em, sister!
Pass the collection plate, please.
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