When I first learned to say the older form of the Mass of the Roman Rite, that is to say, when I first learned how to say Mass, because there has never been a single of day of my priesthood when I couldn’t say it, I admit that I was deeply uncomfortable with some of the gestures prescribed by the rubrics. I even resisted them. For example, the kissing of the objects to be given to the priest, and the priest and the kissing of the priest’s hands… that gave me the willies.
I resisted those solita oscula because I had fallen into the trap of thinking that they made me look too important.
The fact is that none of those gestures were about me at all. They are about the priest insofar as he isalter Christus, not insofar as he is “John”. For “John” all of that would be ridiculous. For Father, alter Christus, saying Mass, it is barely enough.
When you see the deacon and subdeacon in the older form of Holy Mass holding, for example, the edges of the priest’s cope when they are in procession, or when you see them kissing the priest’s hand, or bowing to him, or waiting on him or deferring to him or – what in non-Catholic eyes appears to be something like adoration or emperor worship – you are actually seeing them preparing the priest for his sacrificial slaughter on the altar of Golgotha.