From a reader…
Please comment on lay persons extending their hands while praying the Our Father as the priest does during the Novus Ordo Mass. I feel like you have addressed this topic before but I am unable to find your discussion and would like to send it to a friend. Thank you.
The extension of hands which you describe is the “orans” position, the “praying” position. It is an ancient posture of prayer, particularly for priests praying for and in the name of the people.
During the Our Father the faithful are not to use the orans position, which is the proper hand position of an ordained priest in prayer. The orans position is reserved for a certain liturgical role (read: priest – not even deacons). That position of extended hands is not appropriate for the lay faithful in the pews. Even worse is when they hold that position after the Our Father through the (Protestant) addition that follows.
We must not mix or confuse liturgical roles. Lay people have their own dignity without trying to jazz them up by – and how condescending is this? how clericalist in the worst sense? – by allowing them to do what the priest does. That’s the worst sort of clericalism. When lay and clerical roles are confused for the sake of “active participation” or “getting the laity involved”, the underlying subtext is “You aren’t good enough on your own, so I’ll let you do something that I can do.” Grrrrr. Mind you, I don’t think that all priests who try to get lay people to do things are purposely trying to be condescending clericalists. They are probably well-intentioned. But they haven’t thought through the subtle message in their choice.
On a related now, I am unaware of an official prohibition of holding hands during Mass, so long as it is spontaneous and not invited by anyone or virtually imposed by some Good Idea Fairy with a microphone. It should not be imposed by your neighbor in the pew, either.
There are people at Mass who really would like to be left alone. That’s okay. Leave them alone.