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Beating the Breast

 

Striking or beating the breast with the hand, and bowed head, an ancient sign of sorrow and penitence (cf., Lk. 18:13; 23:48), survives as a liturgical gesture in the Latin rite. The gesture of beating the breast is carried out during the recitation the Confiteor:

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,

And, striking our breasts, we say:

“through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;”

Then we continue:

“therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

Striking the breast at the words “through my own fault.” expresses our repentance physically, in body language. When you strike your breast, do it like you mean it, so that the sound echoes.

© Evangelization Station, 2010 

 

Beating the Breast

 

Striking or beating the breast with the hand, and bowed head, an ancient sign of sorrow and penitence (cf., Lk. 18:13; 23:48), survives as a liturgical gesture in the Latin rite. The gesture of beating the breast is carried out during the recitation the Confiteor:

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,

And, striking our breasts, we say:

“through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;”

Then we continue:

“therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

Striking the breast at the words “through my own fault.” expresses our repentance physically, in body language.

The early Christians were familiar with the practice, as St. Augustine and St. Jerome testify. “No sooner have you heard the word Confiteor,” says St. Augustine, “than you strike your breast. What does this mean except that you wish to bring to light what is concealed in the breast, and by this act to cleanse your hidden sins?” “We strike our breasts”, declares St. Jerome, “because the breast is the seat of evil thoughts: we wish to dispel those thoughts, we wish to purify our hearts.” A justification for these statements is found in Psalm 51:17: “A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

When you strike your breast, do it like you mean it, so that the sound echoes.

© Evangelization Station, 2010 

 

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