One of the parts of the Mass that I love is after the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. It is where the priest says, “To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies…” What strikes me is not just the words the priest speaks, but also the actions he takes in our worship.
Worship is a combination of words and actions. In this short time span a lot happens. As the priest begins, he has his hands folded, but by the time he says, “though sinners”, he beats his breast once, then folds his hands again and then immediately goes back to extend his hands at the end of this prayer. Timing is everything here. Our actions speak. In worship, it speaks a lot to God, but also teaches us a lot about what we believe and about our relationship with God.
Folded hands are an act of submission to God. The priest is putting himself in a position of submission before God on behalf of the people. This is a fitting position for us, His “servants”. Most obviously, the priest is a servant to the Blessed Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But all the baptized are called to serve God. We all have an obligation and duty to serve God. Most forms of worship do the exact opposite. Most people think primarily of what they get out of the worship and do not understand that worship is first, and foremost, an act of making ourselves a gift to God.
But this submission and service is not like we would normally think. It is a submission of love. It is like a submission of a child to its Father. It is an approach of complete trust in preparation for the next words and actions. The priest says “who, though sinners” while beating his breast once. It shows a deep sorrow of the offenses given. The purpose here is not to ask for forgiveness. Rather it is to ask for graces. The humility shown and deep sorrow shows that we need Him.
The text and actions of the priest does not dwell on the sorrow, but moves quickly to the hope of receiving God’s graces. As the priest says, “hope in your abundant mercies”, the priest opens his hands, signifying the openness of God’s grace that flows upon us. God opens the door of hope to us. But knowing the character of God, He is not skimpy with His generosity. The Father in heaven gives his mercy abundantly.
When the priest opens his hands, it is over the offering. His hands are over the sacrifice of Jesus himself which is the source of hope for us. The abundant mercies come from the sacrifice that Jesus has offered to our Father in heaven. It is there we find our hope. Without this sacrifice, we would be hopeless. But with this sacrifice, abundant mercies are found.
Knowing the price of our salvation keeps us humble. Knowing who won for us our salvation gives us the confidence to enter into this kind of filial worship to the Father in Heaven. It gives us the ability to look forward to the abundant mercies God wishes to give us.
Worship becomes an interaction with God. We give ourselves to Him and He gives his very self to us. Worship takes the deadness in servitude and makes it something dynamic and engaging. God engages us to give His graces. Hope for His mercy is what we believe in and live in our worship.