I didn’t want to start this Post without some background information. I didn’t want to just start ranting and raving aimlessly and without any real reason or without justification.
Though…that hasn’t stopped me before 😉
But in this case, I really wanted to do some reading and I did. In the process, I discovered quite a bit about Genuflection. There have been many changes throughout the Centuries as to When and How we Genuflect. For a short and thorough synopsis, The Catholic Encyclopedia from New Advent is quite good. In my humble and ignorant opinion. I know that there are many, many sources. Hardcover, Hand-Held, non-virtual, sources. But for the sake of this post, I chose two.
Well, as you have guessed by now, my Ranting is in regards to Genuflection.
Father Mario has many, many times indicated when, why, and how we are to Genuflect.
It is only right that a Creature kneel to its Creator.
And he also tells us that twice we kneel at Catholic Mass because twice we are before God. I will check the EXACT words and will update this. But I’m sure that even this way, you get the gist.
We Kneel because we are before God. Before Our Creator.
We Kneel as an act of Humility.
To genuflect [Latin genu flectere, geniculare (post-classic), to bend the knee; Greek gonu klinein or kamptein] expresses:
- an attitude
- a gesture: involving, like prostration, a profession of dependence or helplessness, and therefore very naturally adopted for praying and for worship in general (New Advent).
Sadly it seems that some of us have forgotten not just when we are to kneel, but it would seem that we have completely Lost Humility altogether.
I once heard a Mature Woman during Eucharistic Adoration say that if Our Lord, Jesus Christ, were to grant us the Miracle of seeing Him, not just with the Eyes of our Soul, but with our Imperfect Earthly Eyes, we would immediately fall to the floor and prostrate ourselves. Now the reason she said this was because people were passing right in front of the Exposed Blessed Sacrament and not acknowledging His Presence, much less a genuflection, not so much as a Nod.
I agree with her. I do believe we would do that. I dare say ALL of us would. Thus it saddens me deeply when I see people just sit during the Consecration and during the Breaking of the Bread.
To make it clear, we are to Kneel after the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) until after The Great Amen. The part where the Priest says:
Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, in, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.
And we Sing Amen. The Great Amen. We do so as “a posture of profound self-offering in which the congregation unites itself to the Sacrifice of Christ enacted on the altar (Catholic Mass).”
Then again after the Agnus Dei. The part where the Priest says:
Lamb of God, you take away, the sins of the world; have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away, the sins of the world; have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away, the sins of the world; grant us peace.
Here we kneel because “the sacred Body and Blood of the Lord are shown to the faithful. Here the kneeling posture is a sign of worship and fervent petition (Catholic Mass).” Our petition is:
Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only Say the Word and I shall be Healed.
It is customary that we remain kneeling until it is our turn to go up for Communion.
I know first-hand that not everyone is able to kneel. That is why there exist allowances:
In the dioceses of the United States of America, [the faithful] should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration. The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise (Catholic Answers).
In fact, as you will read in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Prayer was originally done standing. That is why you will see many people standing when they are unable to kneel.
I remember when I was growing up, I would have to kneel and see all these Adults standing. I thought it highly unfair and therefore asked my Mamá Lola why they got to stand and I didn’t. She laughingly explained that they wished that they were able to, but due to Health Reasons and Old Bones, they couldn’t. I felt a bit bad for having complained after that. From that day on, when I would see someone stand, I would thank God that I was able to kneel.
That is why it really gets to me when we’re in Mass and I see young, thriving individuals SITTING during these times that we are to be humble. That we are to Worship and Glorify Our Lord. What really got my blood boiling was seeing a woman not just sitting during the Consecration and the Presenting of Our Lord, she had the audacity to have her legs crossed and bouncing her leg!
How did I see this? Because she was right in front of me. This is why I hate sitting in the back. El Diablito (the Devil) is very busy and agile at distracting us.
New Avent’s Catholic Encyclopedia states that:
The liturgical rules for genuflecting are now very definite.
- All genuflect (bending both knees) when adoring the Blessed Sacrament unveiled, as at Expositions.
- All genuflect (bending the right knee only) when doing reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, enclosed in the Tabernacle, or lying upon the corporal during the Mass. Mass-servers are not to genuflect, save when the Blessed Sacrament is at the altar where Mass is being said (cf. Wapelhorst, infra). The same honour is paid to a relic of the True Cross when exposed for public veneration.
- The clergy in liturgical functions genuflect on one knee to the cross over the high altar, and likewise in passing before the bishop of the diocese when he presides at a ceremony. From these genuflexions, however, an officiating priest, as also all prelates, canons, etc., are dispensed, bowing of the head and shoulders being substituted for the genuflexion.
- On Good Friday, after the ceremony of the Adoration of the Cross, and until Holy Saturday, all, clergy and laity alike, genuflect in passing before the unveiled cross upon the high altar.
While this is good. I Prefer the more Thorough and Complete Indications on “Adverting to Our Lord” from the section Being Catholic on Fisheaters.com. Which by the way, starts with an introduction by a Former Protestant and how the Catholic Custom of Adverting to Our Lord affected him.
When I read it, I couldn’t help but be sent back to my High School Years. Sitting in the RTD (Rapid Transit District aka Public Transit) and passing a Catholic Church every single day and being completely self-conscious and not wanting to Cross myself because I didn’t want to be Different, Teased, Laughed at, or ostracized because I was “Religious.” So, I would do a quick Bow of the Head and say to myself, “Dios Mio, aqui voy, cuidame (My Lord, Here I am or I pass, Protect me). I would feel SO guilty. I would be filled with fear because I had not acknowledged Christ, therefore, when I died, He would not acknowledge me. Needless to say, now that I am older and don’t mind being so weird, I bow my head AND Cross myself and teach my children to do the same. Hopefully they will be more courageous than I was. 😉
Here is the List:
Bow of the head
How: Simply lower your chin toward your throat and hold a moment
- When you pass by a Church, bow your head and make the Sign of the Cross to honor the Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle.
- Any time you hear the Name “Jesus” (note that “Christ” is His title, meaning “Annointed One”; there is no need to bow the head at just the mention of the word “Christ”). Men should remove their hats and bow their heads when passing a church or when His Name is spoken; this practice is for both inside and outside of Mass. All Catholics bow their heads at these times (yes, if you’re having a casual conversation with someone on the subway and you pass a church or mention His Name, you actually are supposed to bow your head, removing your hat if you are a man). 1
- Cross yourself and bow the head when the priest and the Crucifer walk down the aisle before and after Mass. After Mass, as the priest leaves the Altar, it is also customary to pray for him. (Some make a profound bow instead at these times)
- Not commonly known and practiced: any time you hear “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (or “Holy Spirit”)” mentioned together; any time you hear the name of Mary; and, during Mass, when the name of the Saint in whose honor the Mass is being celebrated
Striking of the Breast
How: With either a fist or with the tips of the fingers, held close together, strike your chest over the heart to express regret and sorrow 2
- at the Mass, formally: at each “mea culpa” during the Confiteor; at the Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus (priest); three times during the Agnus Dei; and three times during the Domine, Non Sum Dignus
- informally: at the “forgive us our trespasses” (“dimitte nobis debita nostra”) in the “Our Father”; any time to express penitence or remorse inside or outside of the Liturgy
Bow at the waist (or “profound bow”)
How: Bow at the waist in the manner of the Japanese (about 30o forward)
- at the Aspérges at Mass when the priest sprinkles the congregation with holy water
- when the Altar boy incenses the congregation during the Mass
- Cross yourself and make a profound bow when the priest and Crucifer walk down the aisle before and after Mass. After Mass, as the priest leaves the Altar, it is also customary to pray for him. (Some simply bow the head instead of making a profound bow at these times)
- when greeting a hierarch who doesn’t have jurisdiction over you (e.g., the Bishop of a diocese other than one in which you live). As you bow, kiss the hierarch’s ring. This bow and ring-kissing are only done if the Pope is not present.
Genuflection on Left Knee
How: Kneel on your left knee for a moment, bringing the left knee all the way to the floor and keeping the back straight. Hold for a moment, then stand. (The word is pronounced “jen-you-flek’-shun”)
When: When greeting or leaving the Pope or other hierarchs with the rank of Bishop or above and who have jurisdiction over you (only when the Pope is not present) — e.g., to the Bishop or Archbishop of your diocese, not of a neighboring diocese. During the left-knee genuflection, a kiss is given to the hierarch’s ring. Then stand.
Genuflection on Right Knee
How: Looking at what you are genuflecting toward, kneel on your right knee for a moment in the manner of a man proposing to a woman, bringing the right knee all the way to the floor, close to the heel of the left foot, keeping the back and neck erect. Hold for a moment, then stand.
- Genuflect toward the Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, and each time you pass in front of it (except when you’re in procession, such as standing in line for Communion, or returning to your seat afterward). While this should, on one level, be a matter of habit, it shouldn’t be done thoughtlessly. Remind yourself when genuflecting toward the Tabernacle that you are kneeling before God. Praying mentally, “My Lord and My God” is a good habit to get into while genuflecting on the right knee. If the Tabernacle is not on the Altar, genuflect toward the Altar and the Altar Crucifix.
- Before a relic of the True Cross when it is exposed for public adoration.
- On Good Friday to Holy Saturday, after the ceremony of the Adoration of the Cross, genuflect when passing in front of the exposed Crucifix on the Altar.
Kneeling (Double Genuflection)
How: Kneel on both knees
- any time the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, to show adoration and humility
- many times during the Mass: during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, after the Sanctus, after the Agnus Dei, at the altar rail, and at the Last Blessing
- during Confession, inside or, in emergencies, outside of the Confessional
- when receiving a priestly blessing, inside or outside of the Liturgy. If you are unable for some reason to kneel, then bow your head.
- during private prayer (see St. Dominic’s “Fourth Way”” of prayer)
How: Keeping your legs together, drop to your knees and then lie down flat on the floor on your face, crossing your hands underneath your forehead forming a “pillow” on which to rest your forehead
When: Prostrations, which signify total humility and penance, are made during the Rite of Ordination, during rites of religious profession (i.e., entry into religious orders), as penance in religious orders, and by anyone during private prayer before a Crucifix or the Blessed Sacrament. It is also occasionally made by adults, at the priest’s invitation, before the Profession of Faith in the solemn Rite of Baptism. (See St. Dominic’s “Second Way” of prayer)
How: To paraphrase Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not,” you know how to kiss, don’t you? You just put your lips together… but don’t blow.
- Kissing Crucifixes and Icons (2-D or 3-D): In icons that depict more than one person, kiss first Our Lord (His Feet, Hem of His garment, or hands), then Our Lady (her hands or veil), then the the angels and Saints. To reverence a Crucifix or icon that you can’t reach too well with your lips, kiss your fingers and then touch where you would kiss.
- Kissing rings of hierarchs: see above under “Genuflection on Left Knee”
- Kissing a priest’s hands: the priest’s hands may be kissed when greeting or leaving him because they alone are able to confect the Holy Eucharist. They are also kissed on Palm Sunday when receiving a palm (which is also kissed). During the Mass, the priest’s hands are kissed by the acolytes/altar boys.
How: Raise arms either at your sides and with hands up to shoulder height, or raise arms up over your head as a child would when wanting his father to pick him up
- Priests perform this gesture (the first method mentioned) during the Mass.
- Laymen sometimes adopt this position during private prayer. It should not be used by laymen at the Mass. (See St. Dominic’s “Seventh Way” of prayer) 3
Comprehensive, isn’t it?
And all this because of a Rant. 😉