Why do we extend our arms when praying the Our Father and at other times during the Maronite anaphora?

For those attending a Maronite Qorbono (Mass) for the first time you will notice that at various times the congregation together with the priest, extend their arms in prayer. This is sometimes referred to as the Orans posture. The posture is explicitly directed by the presently used Maronite Qorbono.

The posture has in its origins an association with prayer. It can be found in the Old Testament. In Psalm 141 we pray:

 “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,

    and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.”

The posture is referred to in the New Testament at 1 Timothy 2:8, in the instructions concerning prayer:

“I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument;”

We see the posture in the early Church catacomb icons as depicted here. The icon perhaps gives us the best indication of why the posture is presently used in the Maronite Mass.  The catacomb icon depicts an altar, with the Eucharistic offering. Interestingly, the posture is also to be found in the eighth century Western liturgical text, Drogo Sacramentary, where one of the illustrations depicts the whole congregation in the posture at the celebration of the Eucharist.

220px-eucharistic_bread

Reference to the posture can also be found in the early Syriac hymns. In ode 27 of the Odes of Solomon posture is linked to the cross:

“I extended my hands and hallowed my Lord,

For the expansion of my hands is His sign.

And my extension is the upright cross. 

Hallelujah”

This suggests that the person praying identifies themselves with sacrifice of Christ.

In the Maronite liturgy the posture is used during the anaphora (Liturgy of the Eucharist). After the Eucharistic prayer, the congregation and priest are called to all pray together. First the “Our Father” and then at the invitation to communion. Standing in readiness before God with arms outstretched together we pray:

 Make us worthy, O Lord God,
so that our bodies may be sanctified
by your holy Body
and our souls purified
by your forgiving Blood.
May our communion be
for the forgiveness of our sins
and for new life.
O Lord our God, to you be glory, for ever.

In perfect typology, we the Body of Christ, clergy and laity, open our hands and our hearts ready to receive the most perfect sacrifice, the Body of Christ himself.


Go back to Liturgical Postures