Why does the Priest flutter his hands over the Eucharist?

In this season of Pentecost it is interesting to take note of the fluttering action of the priest during the Consecration of the Eucharist in the Maronite liturgy.

After the words of consecration and during the Anaphora, the priest prays on our behalf: 

Have mercy on us, O Lord; have mercy on us. Send us your life-giving Spirit from heaven to hover over this offering, to make it the life-giving Body and Blood, and to pardon and sanctify us.

As the priest prays, “bowing, he flutters his hands three times over the Mysteries”


The wind and dove are familiar representations of the Holy Spirit. The action of fluttering has a basis in scripture that begin with Genesis 1:2 with the spirit hovering over the primordial waters. 

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The idea of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters is a foreshadowing of the Spirit-dove’s appearance over the waters of the Jordan at Christ’s baptism which is the public revelation of the Trinity.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

The directive to the priest to flutter his hands over the Mysteries three times is also a calling to the Trinity. After fluttering his hands three times over the Mysteries, the priest kneeling on both knees and extending his hands then calls:

Hear us, O Lord.
Hear us, O Lord.
Hear us, O Lord.
And may your living
Holy Spirit
come and rest upon us
and upon this offering


Again, that call, three times, is a call to the Trinity.  In the liturgy, we see the priest calls on the Holy Spirit, both in word and in action. This Sunday, focus on those words and actions and feel the Holy Spirit descend on you. God has not left you, indeed his Spirit has been with us since the very beginning of time.

Note: After reading a draft of this article, my sister, who belongs to the Orthodox Church realised that they also have a similar thing, which she had not previously understood.
The priests flutter an Aer which is a veil that sits over the chalice.
If the bishop is present with other co celebrating priests, then at the fluttering point he kneels and bows his head underneath the Aer being held by the priests at either end, and they hover it over his head and chalice.

In Christ 

Theresa Simon