From "Strong Loving and Wise: Presiding in Liturgy" By Fr Robert Hovda OSB

Custody of the tongue
Now our problem in many places is custody of the tongue. The pastoral responsibility of adaptation’s and increasing and liturgical options, along with recovered sense of need of hospitality and dialogue and participation, has occasioned (not caused) a certain immodesty in some presiders. The liturgical reforms were intended to make us more careful of the words we use. But the immodesty one notices is characterized by carelessness.
Perhaps some presiders are simply nervous about their new responsibilities. Perhaps there is not yet enough consciousness of and attention to the spirit of awe and reverence discussed earlier in these pages. But the fact is that some presiders talk entirely too much. Some apparently feel called upon by spirits (who shall not be named) to offer a running commentary which covers the ritual action like a heavy and almost impenetrable syrup. The clear but no doubt unintended implication is that the rite itself is hopelessly obscure and without capacity to signify.
The opposite is more likely to be true. The rites have structure, movement, alterations, as well as gestures, symbols, texts that can and will signify if they are allowed to live and breathe. Good presiders will give the rites of freedom, will adapt with care and use words sparingly-and with the quality of imagery and poetry. They will facilitate the rite –i.e., the congregation’s use of the rite. They will not crush from it all life and breath by either heavy handed “instruction” or breezy and idle chatter.
If the presider is sufficiently disciplined to prepare very carefully any words that will be used in liturgical celebration, the possibility of falling into this verbosity trap will be almost eliminated. And if the presider can add to that discipline a sense of human limits and a modesty about ones clerical contribution to a large ecclesial action, then clerical tongue can become a friend rather than an enemy of liturgy.
The face of “alterity”
Several years ago, in a colloquium on the human person and symbol at St. Johns Aabey, Collegeville, Minnesota, a philosopher named Alphonso Lingis, then at Penn State, spoke about the symbolic function of persons and things. Rehearsing just a skeletal outline outline of what he said might be more helpful here then a smile school. Our point is not to suggest facial expressions appropriate to public rites, but rather to encourage presiders to feel the significance of face and hands in communications with others.
Speaking of symbolic function, Lingus said that what is given is not identical with being, because what is given is access to something beyond. One does not comprehend the symbol, because the symbol introduces on to what is beyond. When a face faces, it is like the surface of any sensible object has-a new kind of distance is opened. To address oneself to the face of another is to face the other, the stranger. Conversation plays across this distance. We strive to reduce the others alien character. But the other remains other, with the power to contest one’s interpretation of things. The other can always withdraw. There is a dimension of alterity, a dimension of absence that the face presents to one.
The other faces you and speaks, with voice, gesture, hands for exploring, touching, feeling. The movements of the hands belong to the full order of the face. To face someone is to be exposed to that person. One comes with the poverty and nakedness of the face. You are the rich one, who has something to say, something to offer. You discover your life is a source and a resource. To answer another is to expose yourself to other’s judgment. The others always require something of you. You must answer in your own name, and in answering discover the singularity of your own existence. There is poverty and nakedness in the face of the other, but the other also rises before you in majesty and power. There is a symbolic function in the very gesture of the face. The face presented is there to present the presence of absence. Absence commands the whole order of symbolization. Western thought has defined things too much in terms of bare presence, limiting being by neglecting the dimension of absence.
That brief outline of some of Lingis’s remarks is for refection and mediation. They are fragments, sentences out of a long paper, fallibly transcribed. This author has reread them periodically for several years and shares them here, risking and injustice to Lingus, out of a conviction that presiders need to feel some of this about their own faces and about faces of the rest of the assembly, about their own hands and the hands of the rest of the assembly. Just to be aware of this quality of mystery, absence, hiddenness in face and hands is to give the edge to spirit in any possible conflict with presiding techniques.
On a more prosaic level, the reflection in facial expression of presence and attention to and involvement in what is going on is every moment of liturgical celebration is something the assembly needs. One’s face reflects preoccupations, anxieties, withdrawals, distance, any of which is extremely damaging to the assembly’s sense of unity and purpose.
Some people smile a lot. Others do not. These natural predispositions seem much less important to presiding style than being natural, and not feigning a temperament one does not possess. To be appreciative of people and their liturgical deed, to be one-self, to reverent and to be collected-these are great gifts the face bestows on a liturgical assembly.