The Church has never had much success in policing the popular devotions of lay folk at Mass and there is remarkably little canonical legislation on the subject. I do not imagine for one minute that I will be able to do any better. But it certainly is my business. What is not my business is what people do outside of Mass, at home or at some “prayer and praise” worship service. As far as I am aware there is little evidence that the raised hands gesture at the Eucharist has made any inroads at St. Francis. Of course, since our altar is firmly attached to the wall and I am standing ad orientem, I can never be sure what is going on, when my back is turned. Still these days you will probably encounter it in some church or other sooner rather than later.
Come on, Father, what harm is it? Quite a lot actually because it obscures the role of the priest in the Eucharistic sacrifice. It may or may not have been the practice of all Christians at some time or other to pray this way. The evidence is scanty and difficult to interpret. When and where did everyone pray this way? What is not disputed is that this gesture became a distinctive sign of the priest at Mass, of his role as a mediator, a go-between between the faithful and the Father.
Moses went up Mt. Sinai by himself. Our Lord took only Peter and James and John up Mt. Tabor. There were no laity at all at the Last Supper.
The priest as priest has been replaced by the priest as leader. Naturally everyone wants to be a leader, although it is unclear exactly who will be led, if everyone is a leader. The priesthood is where the power is, people think. I have never found it so myself. This notion of the priest as a power player is what animates the movement for female ordination and the evidence is that the Church of England is about to self-destruct over this issue. I doubt that anyone would be willing to destroy the Church because he wants to be an icon of Christ. Ah, but for political power that is a different matter.
It is a truth now much ignored that every participant in the Eucharist acts in accordance with his order, the priest as priest, the deacon as deacon, the laity as laity. It is little wonder now that lay folk seem to do everything. Hence all the talk about lay ministry. What lay ministry means is not the laity doing what a priest does; it means lay people doing what lay people do.
The failure to grasp this is a great loss not because it demeans the priesthood but because it results in the failure to sanctify family life, work, and ordinary life. It is the grossest clericalism: you are only doing lay ministry, if you hang around the church all the time and as much as possible act like a priest. People who want to be like a priest have no ambition!
Many factors contribute to this sorry state of affairs: priests who are not sure what a priest is, free standing altars, women priests in the name of fairness, and quite frankly a preference for emotionalism over theology. Hands down, please.