40 Lenten Lessons on the Mass.

Lesson 10: “Rubrics” and Why we strike our breast

When we pray the ‘confiteor’ and accuse ourselves of our own faults — through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievious fault — the rubrics indicate that the faithful are to ‘strike their breast.’

First, you may be wondering what ‘rubrics’ are? “Rubrics” are the occasional directions or indications printed in a faint reddish color in the text of the Roman Missal. The official rubrics are in Latin, but are translated into the vernacular language as the case may be. (‘Rubric’ from the Latin ‘rubrica’ ‘red ochre’)

We are invited to strike our breast in order to pray more profoundly. When we communicate, we do not limit ourselves to the spoken word, but we use ‘body language’ as well. And that is the case in the public worship of the Mass. We use ‘body language.’ By striking our breast, we are emphasizing in our heart that our sins are our own fault, not somebody else’s. We are saying that we are not the victim; Christ is the victim.

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