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5 Gestures of the priest at Mass and their meaning


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Philip Kosloski - published on 03/11/21

Here is a brief recap of the common gestures of the priest at Mass and why he performs them.

During Mass the priest will perform many different gestures, each with spiritual symbolism.

Here are 5 particular actions of the priest during Mass and a brief explanation of their meaning.

  1. Why Mass begins with a procession – It was often called a “penitential procession,” and was used as a way to prepare the hearts of those who were to participate in Mass. The physical act of moving from one place to another gave the faithful a chance to get away from the world and enter into something very solemn and moving.
  2. Why the priest kisses the altar at Mass – Kissing the altar can be viewed as honoring the special role it has in the liturgy and the consecration it was given by the bishop.
  3. Why the Gospel is led with candles and incense– The presence of candles at the Gospel heightens our awareness at Mass, alerting us to something important that is happening in the sanctuary. The Gospel contains the words of Jesus himself and so we are exhorted to pay special attention to his message.
  4. Why priests drop a piece of host into the chalice – It was a visible and concrete reminder that they were united to the pope and bishops each time they celebrated the Mass.
  5. Why a priest genuflects at Mass – The act of genuflecting on one knee comes from court etiquette and was done while in the presence of a medieval king or noble. It was a sign of respect as well as a pledge of service.


Read more:
This is why the priest kisses the altar at Mass

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