Thursday, January 25, 2007

Procedural Questions

Maybe someone could enlighten me.

  • Why in communion services (when using rails for administration) do the people administering (almost) always go from the congregation's left to their right?
  • I get the laying hands on people when praying for them. But what's with the vague stretching out of hands towards them? Are you expecting to be able to throw lightning bolts, as with the Emperor in Star Wars? Or is it a telekinesis thing? Or a telepneumatological thing? In which case why does it need the hand?
  • I'm sure there was something else, but I can't remember right now.


Simon said...

Dunno about the rails thing, I've always assumed it was just to do with the handedness of the celebrants. Although if you had one right-handed priest and a left-handed concelebrant, that could really mess things up.

Actually, thinking about it, it's more to do with the handedness of the congregation. We naturally line up left to right (we even write left to right) so it makes sense to serve us that way around.

Anyway, that was an aside, I wanted to get onto:

I get the laying hands on people when praying for them. But what's with the vague stretching out of hands towards them?

OK, so turn the question around. Why do you get one but not the other? To say that touch is necessary would suggest that the mana
has to flow through physical contact, and can't flow through air. Is that any more rational a position than the "stretching out hands is effective" position?

I see it as a symbol, and equally as much a symbol as laying on of hands is. It's a second-order symbol (laying on of hands being a symbol of imparting the Holy Spirit, stretching out hands being a symbol of laying on hands) to be sure, but still a symbol. An epiclesis, if you want the technical term!

Susan A said...

i agree with simon about the 'stretching out of hands'. it's also used as way of representatively blessing a whole congregation of people when you can't lay your hands on all of them. in that way i suppose it even binds the congregation together more as a community, all being blessed together.

but i would normally take communion with both hands. and i've been to quite a few episcopal communions where you go from the congregation's right to left. i always assumed it was to do with the layout of the church building. how do they get back to their seats, pushing past the minimum number of people? also, it might be something to do with where the celebrant is standing at the beginning of communion, which will be connected to where the celebrant's assistant (if the celebrant has an assistant) is standing, which again might have something to do with the layout of the church, or the sensibilities of the assistant. maybe in some traditions there is a proper significance to it, but i get the impression most of the time these days they don't care.

John said...

President, not celebrant, please ;)

All Christians there should be celebrants.

John said...

The handedness issue was something a friend here suggested, and might well be the actual explanation. If ministers get used to people arriving from that side, they'll automatically go to their right to start, even if that's their less natural side.

No - touch doesn't require the idea of mana; it requires the idea of valid and effective symbolism. In the same way that I don't think communion is the same if done with ribena and biscuits, I don't think that laying on of hands if the same if there's no laying on of hands.

And there was me thinking that epiclesis was the invocation of the Holy Spirit in the prayer of consecration at the Eucharist.

And the stretching out hands thing - there seems to me to be a difference between stretching out hands to include the whole congo in a prayer for them and stretching out a hand towards an individual who is being prayed for on the other side of the room. But maybe that's just my prejudices showing.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad God's not as easily confused as we are! I'm sure he can understand symbolisism to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or whatever'th'd order! If we know what we mean, I'm sure he does. I thought God was more about what's going on in our hearts and minds, not whether I kneel the right way, or drink the right kind of red stuff!
I think God must look at us anglicans at times and think "Oh yey! More Pharisees! Just what I needed!"

John said...

that's pretty certainly true!

Anonymous said...

Custard et al

Re extending hands I have taken pitty on you and posted the full explanation on my blog ;-)

John said...

Sean Doherty explains the stretching out hands issue.

Anonymous said...

He tauira o te reo maori ahau. Ko toku whakapono, kaore e taea e tatou, te mana te hoatu. He taonga o te tangata tenei mea.

I'm a student of the maori language. As far as I know, mana cannot be transferred. It resides in the individual.