Thursday, 8 September 2011

Beating your Breast and Bowing

Je confess a Dieu

These are the final sections which I prepared for the back of the bulletin in my old parish. They are to do with parochial life in England, but many of the problems facing the Church are the same where ever you are. 

So let us return to two old favourites… beating your breast and bowing.

The ‘I confess’ provides a place for you to ‘strike their breast’. Think of it not so much as a handy hint, but actually what it is… a liturgical instruction.  We have other liturgical instruction… standing for the Gospel, sitting for the readings etc. So why we seen to have  a problem with striking our breast or bowing during the Creed is quite beyond me.

We are human beings, we have bodies. If you have a grin on your face, are not looking at me and have a party hat on and then proceed to say how sorry you are to me, then I will sense a disconnection between what you are saying and what I believe. If you take the hat off, look me in the eye and swipe the grin off your face and then say you are sorry, then I will believe you. I read your body language. I would say also that if it is me who doing the apologising and doing the latter (taking the hat off and looking you in the eye) then I myself will believe what I say more.

During the ‘I confess’ take your right hand and strike your breast as an outward sign of what you mean… that you are sorry. There is nothing embarrassing about it, so why don’t we just do it? Just decide and follow the liturgical action. I have always found it quite bizarre that people do not do this.

The Holy Father bowing during 'Et Incarnatus est'
And bowing at the moment of the Incarnation during the Creed… don’t even get me started! God becomes man for us, and this will lead to His suffering and death for our salvation. To honour this action we are told to bow. In the Latin Mass we have to kneel. This is fitting and correct. He does this for us, we bow and strike our breast for Him.

Let us worship our God with our bodies. Let us teach the children in our midst by our example that we should show that we are sorry, and that we should bow down before God. Small actions, but a wealth of meaning.

I have to admit that it is much much easier with children. You ask them to do something and they do it. All priests preside in the Ordinary Form in a different way. The boys here simply adapt to the new circumstances. Perhaps it is something about getting old, stuck in our ways, and thinking that we are too important to be told to do something new that transforms something as easy of these liturgical actions into something very difficult.
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