Full question by Thomas:
Why do we strike our chest during mass?
The striking of the chest is an ancient symbol of sorrow and contrition in both a religious and cultural sense.
Luke describes the people of Jerusalem “beating their breasts” after seeing what had been done to Jesus, “And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.” (Luke 23:48)
Also in Luke, we hear the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!'” (Luke 18:13)
There are also many examples of this show of sorrow in the Old Testament.
St Jerome remarked that the reason we strike our chest, rather than any other body part, is because the heart is the seat of all desires and it’s our desire to do our own will that seperates us most from the will of God.
In recognizing that the heart needs cleansing, by God, we are acting out the words of King David in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,and put a new and right spirit within me.” (Psalms 51:10)
May we always remember to ask God to renew our hearts and our love for Him.
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