Sacrum of gestures and signs

Fr Jerzy Hajduga, CRL

We know well who we are to shake our hand with, whom and when we are to kiss. Who we should give a hug or into whose arms we should throw ourselves. We hug eagerly, tightly and lovingly. This is just the way we are. But we stop noticing the meaning, the solemnity or even the sacrum of certain gestures and sings in this upheaval of feelings or in this momentum of embraces. Let us look at the sign of the cross. Fr Jan Twardowski wrote in his 'Zeszyt w kratke' [A Notebook with Squared Paper], 'Touch your forehead and not your nose. Your heart and not a metal button. Your shoulders and not your braces'. Mother taught us to do so. What was left? Fr Twardowski finished his story, 'Sometimes you make the sign of the cross any old how, in a slipshod manner, as if you drove some army off, but I cannot do that so quickly because while making this sign I remember so many things'. And so did I when I was observing my parents and children who were waiting for the service and for their First Communion in front of the church. After their parents' blessing (the parents put their hands over the children's heads and repeat the priest's words) the priest proposed unexpectedly that the children should kiss the hands of their fathers and mothers, following the old Polish tradition. You can easily imagine the dismay and chaos of the movements of the hands, which otherwise are eager, greedy and loving. 'Well, son, don't be silly; my little daughter, you need not do that. If you hug me friendly, that would be enough'.
It was the children that behaved in the most natural way; they just wanted to kiss their beloved parents' hands. But the parents changed that gesture into a hug or kiss on the forehead. Why?
Because we do not have this tradition any longer. We should behave in accordance with the modern fashion. Thinking and behaving must follow modern trends. But on the other hand, people respect traditions in certain circumstances and situations whether they like it or not. For example, the way people dress. You can hardly imagine a bridegroom wearing a T-shirt beside his future wife in the church. Similarly, during the First Communion a child does not wear an earring in the nose or in the brow. And we respect traditions; we know what to wear. But we do not follow traditions as far as our behaviour is concerned, I mean, traditional gestures and signs. One can see that best at church. The way we make the sign of the cross or the way we kneel show our faith, hope and love for God. We are in a hurry, we make the sign of the cross any old how, and perhaps in the next generation the sacrum of gestures and signs becomes avant-garde.

Before the First Communion
he has already confessed
for the first time has talked to Christ
about his sins
his love
on the red
carpet of
the language

"Niedziela" 20/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: