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Friday, 23 September 2011

LITURGICAL GESTURES AND THEIR BIBLICAL ORIGINS






Liturgy is the public service or worship rendered to God by an official minister of the Church through Christ in the name of Christ, the head of the Church. Liturgy however makes use of signs and symbols which reflects or contain in themselves the heavenly realities they signify. Signs are pointers to a heavenly reality while symbols contain in themselves the heavenly reality they signify. An example of sign is the liturgical gestures we make within our liturgical celebrations.

Liturgical gestures are those bodily expressions by which the human person expresses the highest forms of his spiritual, intellectual and artistic devotions to God. The O.T informs us of the relevance of liturgical gestures in Christian worship. Isaiah 6:2-3 reminds us of the picture of the angels with six wings using each of his paired wings in praise of God. Those liturgical gestures include: the sign of the Cross, standing, sitting, kneeling, striking the breast and imposition of hands.
The sign of the Cross: The sign of the Cross a sign which professes a faith in the Triune God (cf. Mk 8:43, Rom. 6:6-8, 1 Cor. 1:23-24;2:2). It is a visible and efficacious sign of sanctification and covering oneself with divine protection (cf. Gen. 12:2-3 Jn. 12:32, Ez. 9:3-4) It is also a public testimony of the faith that Jesus used the Cross to secure our salvation and that through this sign we shall be victorious.
Standing: Standing is a natural expression of respect and reverence. When it is observed in a liturgical celebration, then the respect and reverence is addressed to God. In the O.T, Moses always stood before the glory of God to listen to Him and the people will also stand at the entrance of their tents when Moses goes up to the Tent (cf. Ex. 33:8,10). It is used also for the exercise of the priesthood (cf. Luke 1:11 – then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense).
Sitting: This is a posture normal for a religious teacher (cf. Mt. 5:1, Jn. 8:2), of a judge (cf. Mt. 25:31, Rev 20:4). Also the Child Jesus was found seated in the midst of the wise men listening to them (Lk. 2:46). Sitting has an eschatological implication which refers to the rest the people of God anticipates after the toils of this world.
Kneeling: Kneeling has become a posture proper to prayer. Jesus knelt down in his Gethsemane prayer (Lk. 22:41), the deacon Stephen also knelt down to pray before his execution (cf. Acts 7:60). Kneeling is a posture that reflects humility, sorrow and penance.

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