An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


Stylized motions of the body, especially the arms and hands, during worship. Along with postures, these natural and instinctive motions express in a nonverbal, kinetic way the meaning of the action. Over the centuries many gestures once made by all the people came to be made only by the presider. Liturgical reform has included the tendency to restore these gestures to all. Principal gestures and postures in Christian liturgy are: 1) Orans, lifting hands in prayer; 2) sign of the cross, made especially with the right thumb on the forehead or with the right hand on the forehead, chest, and shoulders; 3) standing for praise and kneeling for confession; 4) bowing in reverence; 5) genuflection, or bending the knee, in reverence; 6) kiss of peace, sign of greeting and reconciliation; 7) elevation of the elements, offering them to God or showing them to the people; 8) extending the hands in greeting, as at “The Lord be with you”; 9) laying on of hands (or extending them over persons), a sign of blessing and authorization, as in Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and other sacramental acts.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.