(Ancient posture for holding of hands during prayers) byPaul Turner
Orans is a Latin word meaning "praying." It also defines the formal posture assumed by a priest whenever he prays during Mass. Any time he directly addresses God, the priest stands with his hands slightly raised and outstretched.
This gesture can be traced to stories of Moses (Ex 9:29) and descriptions of prayer in the psalms (28:2; 63:4, 134:2). It resembles the gesture of a small child ready to hug or asking to be lifted up.
Tertullian, a second-century father of the church from North Africa, said that extending hands in prayer bears witness to the cross of Christ.
Depictions of early Christians in the orans position can be found in the catacombs. The gesture has had an honored place in the history of the Roman liturgy.
The precise position admits some variation. After the council of Trent, priests were instructed to raise their hands no higher nor wider than the shoulder, palms facing each other and the fingers of each hand joined. Some still follow that former rubric, even though it is no longer in force.
Some stand with arms spread completely outstretched to the sides, while others choose a mid-position. Some stand with arms lifted up high, palms facing out, in a gesture which says in another context, "Don't shoot!" but here implies a reverent surrender to God in prayer.
The priest is to assume a recognizable prayer posture. In this way he, the assembly, and God all know what is going on during, the most solemn parts of the Mass.
Some communities have found it helpful for the assembly to assume the orans position when it prays together, for example, at the Lord's Prayer. Although many Catholics may join hands at that time, they could stand with arms outstretched, palms upraised. Some will find this posture helpful at private prayer.
A member of the armed forces assumes a specific posture when addressing a superior. You hold the telephone a certain way if you expect the person you called to listen.
Christians traditionally stand in the orans position when we address God.