The practical reason: This helps the priest to concentrate on what he’s doing, and almost forces him to have an attitude of humble reverence before these Most Sacred of Mysteries, at least in posture.
The historical reason: I conjecture that this is what priests naturally did, and this was then “canonized” as a rubric.
The theological reason: Jesus is the Priest, the Altar and the Lamb of Sacrifice. When a priest places his forearms on the altar, it is almost as if Christ Jesus Himself is reaching up from the Altar as the Priest to become the Lamb of Sacrifice. But not just as if. The priest acts in Persona Christi (in the Person of Christ). Yikes!
Someone asked two of us priests separately about the forearms on the altar thing, and we both gave the identical theological answer. Yikes! again!
UPDATE: Sigh. After I wrote this post, I was alerted about another post on this topic on the blogosphere. It basically said that the priest commits sodomy with Jesus at the consecration as a direct analogy with marital intercourse.
What surprises me is that people who otherwise have some good sense run to such writings and spread them about as if such writings support Catholic teaching. It would be a good idea to stop reading her writings.
God will not be mocked.
UPDATE: After the continue reading button, you will find the contents of the priestly celibacy series. It seems that I am accused of not knowing anything about the nuptial meaning of the Mass. Especially helpful in this series regarding the nuptial meaning of the Mass are numbers 6 & 7, on Eunuchs!
Ferocious HSH Series on Priestly Celibacy
- The Biblical Foundation of Priestly Celibacy by Father Ignace de la Potterie, S.J. This is one of the more visited posts of the blog. Father Ignace was a good friend. A confidant. I used this in a course on priestly celibacy that I gave at the Pontifical College Josephinum. I was very pleased that so many of the seminarians were extremely well read, and were, indeed, on the cutting edge of Continue reading