Holding hands during the Eucharist Liturgy


Questioning the holding hands in the Eucharistic Liturgy the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome answered as follows:

QUERY: In some places there is a current practice whereby those taking part in the Mass replace the giving of the sign of peace at the deacon's (or priest's) invitation by holding hands during the singing of the Lord's Prayer. Is this acceptable? REPLY: The prolonged holding of hands is of itself a sign of communion rather than of peace. Further, it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on personal initiative; it is not in the *rubrics. Nor is there any clear explanation of why the sign of peace at the invitation: "Let us offer each other the sign of peace" should be supplanted in order to bring a different gesture with less meaning into another part of the Mass: the sign of peace is filled with meaning, graciousness, and Christian inspiration. Any substitution for it must be repudiated: Notitiae 11 (1975) 226. [Notitiae is the journal of the Congregation in which its official interpretations of the rubrics are published.]

While this addresses the holding of hands at the Sign of Peace the reasons given apply also elsewhere in the Mass, including at the reciting or singing of the Our Father. This practice was most likely began at charismatic prayer meetings and was then transferred to charismatic Masses finally finding its way into general Sunday Masses in a few places. It was supposed to show the unity of believers under the Fatherhood of God, as spoken of in the Our Father. For the following reasons this is not a proper thing to do.

1) It is an inappropriate "sign," since Holy Communion is the sign of intimacy and unity during the sacrifice of the Mass. Thus a human gesture of intimacy precedes both the sign of reconciliation at the Sign of Peace and reciting the Lord's Prayer, but more importantly it precedes Holy Communion, which is the appropriate sacramental sign of intimacy and unity within the People of God.
2) The Holy See has the authority, and is the choreographer of the liturgy according to Vatican II's "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy" #22 and canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law. As stated above "Any substitutions [to these rubrics] must be repudiated." Most laity, and probably many priests, are blind to the theological implications, thought you would think that obedience would be enough.
3) This practice of holding hands alienates many people, and nothing should be introduced into the liturgy, especially if it is optional and arbitrary if it has that effect.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church at 1396 reads: The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Though it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body - the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call.----Listen to St. Paul's advice to his converts at Corinth: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." (1 Cor. 10:16-17)

Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist and receiving Holy Communion is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship

Given the difficulty of obeying this decision when a local Church permits or encourages the practice, and your neighbor wanting to hold hands is pulling at your coat sleave it is suggested that closed eyes and a prayerful posture (hands held upright near your chest, fingers together, thumbs crossed, ignoring the neighbor pulling at your sleave) as sufficient, rather than belligerence. It is not necessary to lose one's peace over this or be an irritation to others. It is a small point and often the least of many abuses where it is found. If asked why you don't participate, simply, plainly and charitably tell the questioner of your discovery of the prohibition. If some chance of changing the practice is possible talk to the pastor or work with other laity through the parish council. You can also write the bishop, as is your right in the case of any liturgical abuse not resolved at the parish level. If your judgment is that no change is possible then you are in all probability excused from further fraternal correction.

* Rubrics are the directive rules or liturgical provisions found in the Missal, Sacramentary and lectionary, and in the ritual to guide bishops, priests, or deacons in the Eucharistic liturgy, the administration of sacraments and sacramentals, and the preaching of the Word of God. Rubrics are printed in red and are either obligatory or merely directive, as the context makes amply clear.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This article contain short excerpts from the following: (1) EWTN Website www.ewtn.com Catholic Q&A - FAQ by Colin B. Donovan, STL. (2) OSV - The Catholic Answer's - Q&A on Diskette obtained from, Our Sunday Visitor, Publishing Division, Huntington IN 46750. (3) EDITOR-The Website: www.catholicmatters.com.

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