Less kneeling and more standing for Scottish Catholics at Mass

Our friends at EWTN have published this news story. The take-away seems to be this line:

“Make no doubt about it, theses changes in posture are the revenge of trendy liturgists for the introduction of a new, more traditional, translation of the Mass which they really dislike,” said one Scottish priest to EWTN News after being briefed on the changes.

It think it is time for us who believe that the posture for the assembly during the communion rite—to the end of the communion procession—should be standing, to defend our belief. I am working up a post on this matter. Let the conversation begin.

h/t to Rocco Palmo

64 comments

    1. Deliberate obtuseness?

      One posture and procession says erect posture!

      We are called to stand around one altar [versus, I note, sit or recline around one table. A large tangent is possible here.] as a communal royal priesthood.

      We prepare the altar table with linens, vessels, bread, wine. Then, in quick sequence, as Jesus did, we take a loaf, give thanks over it, share it among the assembled community. We then do the same with the cup, taking, praising God, sharing. Once this is done, we reflect on what we have done, first individually, then communally.

      There should be no interruptions to distract from this flow, no intruded prayers, no commentary in the format of prayers, no movement up and down, just the simple meaningful remembrance by doing what Jesus did.

      From gathering around until all have shared, we stand around the altar as best as space and numbers permit. We do this in communion, not as individuals. If numbers mean this will take a good deal of time, we sing communally during the sharing. From taking until all have shared, the service expresses the unity of all participants with each other and with the entire church militant, suffering, and triumphant. This is not a time for any form of personal expression. We are united in one procession, one song, one bread, one cup, one posture throughout.

      Afterward, there is time for personal reflection on the wondrous, ineffable elements of what has happened in God taking our simple meal and transubstantiating it, sharing the divine Real Presence within one’s physical body.

      In the liturgical action itself, however, we are entirely about sharing with Jesus and each other. This is a communal participation ritual, not an institutional creation of something for individual consumption. There should be no interruption of the communal action for individual expressions. Such expressions are for the time of private prayer in the quiet pause after the with-one-ness.

      1. A communal, royal priesthood, eh? I suppose you regularly celebrate Mass at your house Mr. Poelker?

        Do you hear confessions, too?

  1. Trendy liturgists! I’ve never been called trendy before; must forward this to my kids to let them know.
    Seriously, the other piece that stands out is the political/historical point of view.
    “These people don’t like kneeling during any part of the Mass and so have a particular distaste for those traditional, pious Scottish customs which for generations have seen us kneel during Holy Mass more than, say, the English do.”
    Maybe someday the pain of our age old wounds can be left at the church door as we unite in praise and thanksgiving to our God.

  2. We Lutherans usually stand (I know one parish in CO that kneels for the whole EP) during the Eucharistic Prayer, but kneel for reception of the sacrament. As baptized and forgiven Christians, standing is an appropriate posture at the solemn rite.

  3. Regardless of where one might stand (no pun intended) on the usual posture debates (the institution narrative, or communion), these are truly strange times to kneel: the preface? the dismissal?

    1. Kneeling for the preface and sanctus and for the blessing is from the EF Mass which I suspect Scotland kept in the reformed Mass until now. There are different postures for the low and high Mass in this form.

      1. The majority of EF sung and solemn Masses I have been to (in North America and Europe) stand for the preface, kneel at the Sanctus, rise again for the Pater Noster, and kneel for the communion verse, postcommunion verse, dismissal and final blessing. The Scottish posture modifications are not at all revolutionary, as even the posture for the OF in the United States differs little from the EF sung Mass posture save for standing for the blessing and dismissal.

        If EWTN wants to pick a fight about the new translation, posture is definitely not the most logical or fruitful way to gain cred.

        Aside: one thing I like about the EF is the more relaxed attitude about posture. For example: traditionally, one kneels throughout Low Mass save for the Gospel and the Prologue of John. Some priests allow or even encourage the sung Mass postures at Low Mass, or leave the posture decision to individuals. I wish more OF parishes would just let people pray in postures that are comfortable and physically accommodating. I understand the liturgical movement emphasis on unity of movement as a sign of the unity of the body of Christ, but some leniency should be allowed according to private judgment.

      2. “Some priests allow or even encourage . . . ”

        I myself have never heard an EF priest even mention the issue of posture at Mass. With the single exception of a priest—who now teaches liturgy at a traditional seminary—who argued that the congregation should stand for the Sanctus when they were singing it, on the grounds that standing is the proper posture for singing.

      3. The majority of EF sung and solemn Masses I have been to (in North America and Europe) stand for the preface, kneel at the Sanctus, rise again for the Pater Noster, and kneel for the communion verse, postcommunion verse, dismissal and final blessing.

        That’s not what I’ve typically seen. I assume you mean post-communion prayer? Typically, congregations stand for that (except to the extent that we’ve managed to teach them to kneel for it at penitential Masses [weekdays in Lent, Requiems, etc.] when this is the choir posture for that Mass [which we encourage them to adopt, Liturgical Movement practice that has been mentioned in the pastoral notes in the FSSP ordo in the past]). It’s usual for them to remain standing for the dismissal and not to kneel until the blessing and then to immediately stand again for the Gospel.

      4. You’re right Sam. The postures you describe are often done — I am thinking more of my own practice, which is not uncommon. Many people remain kneeling after the communion. I do — I don’t see the point of rising at the Dominus vobiscum, standing the postcommunion and dismissal, kneeling at the Blessing, and standing for the Last Gospel. I find it easier just to kneel until the Last Gospel. So far no one has kicked me out of a church for that behavior.

        I also tend to hear Low Mass most of the time. That jaundices my understanding a bit.

        The preconciliar Liturgical Movement’s views on posture should leave the EF alone. Let things grow organically. If, during the Mass, someone wants to say the rosary, roam around the church to light votive candles, or venerate icons, great. Mass is the divine drama for our salvation, and a church is the house of God designed to shelter and foster the divine sacrifice. A person who prays personal devotions or performs venerations during Mass is participating just as much as a person reading from a missal and following every move prescribed by scholars in the 1930s.

        Our Byzantine brethren allow for a wide variety of devotions during Divine Liturgy. Their liturgies are profound and indescribably transcendent. Why not allow variety in the Latin rite as well?

      5. “Kneeling for the preface and sanctus and for the blessing is from the EF Mass…”

        All the rubrical guides I’ve read on the matter indicate that
        during a Missa Cantata, the faithful are to stand until the end
        of the singing of the Sanctus.

    2. Chris: as one who thinks that kneeling in the Presence of our Eucharistic Lord is sort of a no brainer, I agree with you that it’s odd to kneel at the preface and the dismissal.

      The only thing I can think of for the dismissal, is that maybe they’ve been kneeling for the closing blessing, and so they just stay on their knees?

      As for the Preface, that one’s hard to figure out, since the Body and Blood of our Lord have not yet been confected.

  4. Excellent! What a stupid medievalism this kneeling fetish is (men really like women on their knees, don’t they? …). Let’s get back to the original idea of eucharist as a celebration of community, not a pointless act of so-called magical “worship” of some god. Getting down on your grubby knees does nothing but destroy any atmosphere of joy and community — as Scotland’s most honourable Graces and Excellences have apparently finally realized!

  5. There are some wonderfully pastoral comments here – describing people who kneel as divisive, fetishistic, individualistic. It’s very loving and pastoral to, as Sandi does above, implicitly say that people like me hate women. I’m a man, so of course when I kneel for communion, it’s a sign of my misogyny. (!)

    As if forcing people to stand when they wish to kneel was pastoral!

    Let those who wish to stand, stand; let those who wish to kneel, kneel. What on earth is so threatening about kneeling?

      1. Sorry padre, but no. The “magic spells” theory of what church does is just going out of style, that’s all. And it’s about time.

  6. I’ve always thought the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is such an august occasion that EVERYONE should kneel, all the way through, and as soon as the Roman Pontiff and every other clergyman does so, I will too.

  7. It is quite an image for the imagination — all those ScotsMEN kneeling in their kilts like children — and now being allowed to stand like adults. Is there an ‘official preferred length’ for kilts?

    1. I don’t understand the connection between kneeling and childhood. Care to elaborate?

      Or are you just equating standing with adulthood because you like standing better?

  8. Hopefully people can defend either kneeling or standing without resorting to insulting words such as revenge or childishness. Both postures have a long tradition in the Latin Rite and neither should be denigrated with such acrimony. I know in the USA some dioceses “mandate” that the laity remain standing at their pews throughout the “Communion Procession” but many more dioceses still have the tradition of kneeling once people return to their pews. I’ve been to two Masses out of town recently where I saw both occurring at the same time, although the majority knelt until the procession finished. In Canada, at least in the Diocese of Antigonish, people only kneel after the sanctus and through the Memorial Acclamation and then stand. They’ve done so since the reform of the Mass in the 1960’s. I think the Italians do the same thing. I suspect even prior to the reform of the Mass, there was quite a bit of diversity in terms of kneeling and standing according the customs and traditions of various countries. Is there a need for rigid uniformity worldwide?

    1. “In Canada, at least in the Diocese of Antigonish, people only kneel after the sanctus and through the Memorial Acclamation and then stand. They’ve done so since the reform of the Mass in the 1960’s.”

      In theory, at least, that’s what the world does, except for the U.S., which got an indult to depart from the norm and remain kneeling until the Amen. (Maybe other conferences got similar permission, but I don’t know of any offhand.) Here in Toronto, however, almost all parishes follow the American rubric, apparently on the decision of Archbishop Pocock in the ’70s.

      I’m not a fan of any kneeling, but I think your point about a “need” for rigid uniformity is well-taken. RCs, across liturgical and theological spectrums, often seem to share a common assumption that divergent practices are to be avoided at all costs.

    2. The “universal” norm (what the Latin GIRM prescribes) is kneeling from the Epiclesis until after the showing of the chalice (after the consecration of the wine): Inde ab epiclesi usque ad ostensionem calicis diaconus de more genuflexus manet. Whether the Epiclesis is synonymous with the Post-sanctus is perhaps up for debate, but I would generally think they mean the sentence where the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine.

      (On a side note, the gestures over the bread and wine in the Roman Canon are out of sync with the other EPs. In the other EPs, the hands are extended over the bread and wine at the Epiclesis, and then the Sign of the Cross is made over them. In the Roman Canon, the Sign of the Cross is made early, during the Te igitur, and the hands are extended during the Quam oblationem [not the Hanc igitur as in the 1962 Missal] because the Canon mentions the Body and Blood multiple times, owing to its long and winding history. I think it would make more sense to unify the gestures in the Canon with the other EPs.)

  9. Actually I would advocate a return to the ancient Roman practice of reclining while at table.

    Also that horrid term, assembly, makes me think of sweat shops and piece work.

  10. Indeed there is a diversity of posture worldwide for the Eucharistic Prayer. Thanks be to God for that.

    I may be mistaken, but I understood that the Scottish Bishops had determined that people should kneel after the Sanctus as they do in England.

    I have just returned from Italy where some of the congregation kneel after the Sanctus and others remain standing. I can’t see how either posture is more “reverent” than the other.

    In some churches people sit for the Eucharistic Prayer because there is no room for them to kneel down and no one has ever suggested that it might be more fitting if they were to stand.

    Of course, soon we shall no longer be directed to say “stand in your presence and serve you.” I hope that won’t stop priests continuing to say it, though.

    Re. the anonymity requested by the correspondent: “Stand up and be counted” might be an appropriate piece of advice.

    Alan Griffiths.

  11. Just to say again what I have said before:

    I rejoiced when the America bishops decided that there should be communion in the hand and on the tongue and that it would be up to the communicant to decide. A real step forward in Christian freedom and adulthood for the laity!

    Similarity we should be able to stand or kneel at communion, and also during the Eucharist Prayer as we feel inspired. We should be able to stand, sit or kneel after communion.

    We should raise our hands or join hands at the Lord’s Prayer as we see fit.

    People should be welcome to make the signs of the Cross, bow their heads, make profound bows, genuflections, etc as they see fit.

    One of the most beautiful parts of the church year is the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. At one of the local parishes, people are strongly encouraged to express their veneration in a variety of ways as they see fit. It is wonderful to contemplate the various people and their expressions.

    Of course this diversity of expression during the Mass may at times require a little organization (certain areas for kneeling, others for standing) but that organization should be responsive to the diverse desires of the people rather than imposed from above. In order words, don’t organize it unless it is necessity.

    We should also avoid silent messages, e.g. “you can stand or kneel during communion but we known that when people have a choice they will prefer kneeling.” They may not, especially as our population grays.

    We should also discourage people from becoming exhibitionist examples to others of their superior piety. That may require some tack, but we have Jesus words and examples in the Gospel to help us warn people about this.

    Sorry, folks, self expression is in, tradition is out unless we cease to be a postindustrial society and go back to being an agrarian society, or become a tiny denomination doing its thing.

    1. Jack, nothing about what you suggest requires rocket science. At the OF Mass I attended this morning, most received communion standing from the priest at the center—some on the hands and some on the tongue, a few after genuflecting first—while a number proceeded to the altar rail on one side of the aisle and knelt, the priest coming to them after finishing giving communion to the all the “standers”. (Most of the kneelers were near the back of the communion procession, so the wait was not long or conspicuous.)

      Knowing the parish, I can’t imagine that anyone gave a second thought to what anyone else was doing. Certainly there was no commotion, no confusion, no awkwardness on anyone’s part. This being a parish where there is the sense of community that’s often talked about but seldom seen, certainly the only parish I’ve ever seen without any evident disagreements over doctrinal or liturgical matters. Not that everything is unanimous, just that there’s such a sense of unity and community stemming from the liturgy that no serious arguments arise.

  12. The EWTN report makes some generalisations about what happens here in Scotland, but in fact there is diversity of practice within this country. In my parish, for example, we do not kneel until after the Sanctus.

  13. I understand that the Scots also kneel for the Penitential Rite in addition to the preface, the entire EP, and the blessing. This diversity of legitimate, that is approved, postures during the Mass belies some of the presumptions we’ve made about the post conciliar reform. Evidently, these postures carried over from the low Mass tradition that we once all shared. Some must feel a moral quandary here because taking a position against more kneeling in Scotland puts one in the position of agreeing with the bishops’ desire for uniformity in the liturgy.
    Tom’s essay in #2 above is interesting but is far removed from Vatican II’s SC, the post conciliar documents on the liturgy (including the GIRMs), & the tradition of the Latin Church. I’m not getting its relevance to the larger conversation.

    1. I think it is right in line, so, please spell out how it is “far removed”. I discuss objectives, not rubrics.

      I am not reading much liturgical expertise on this thread, very little concern for what will make the liturgy most effective, which is whence I write.

      Instead there is this back and forth about uniformity and variety.

      There is no discussion of the liturgical theology of the matter.

      The call for variety and personal option by some misses the nature of liturgy. One does not pointed avoid singing “Happy Birthday” as a personal option, not refuse to take at least a small piece of cake. One does not refuse to raise the glass and toast the wedding couple or insist on cheering instead.

      Liturgical actions are communal actions. Those who have assembled [what is the problem someone has with this perfectly correct expression?] for the Mass are doing one thing together, not a bunch of individual things at the same time.

      Some of our problems come, once again, from our presider poor, overpopulated parishes. Things which are simple for people gathered in their dozens become complicated when done by the hundreds. As the congregation gets larger, the Mass becomes more of a clericalized dramatic performance and less of an intimate communal meal. That is one of the reasons that there is no single right way to do liturgy, differences in the size of the assembly and of the space.

      It is definitely individualistic for those who have already shared in the elements of the sacrifice to go sit or kneel and partake of private prayer while the communal rite is still in progress. It turns the whole thing into the distribution of a product for private consumption instead of a communal experience. There is a subsequent time for personal reflection, use that. Don’t intrude on the communal ritual.

      Similarly, if all a taking communion kneeling, I should kneel, if all stand, I should stand. This is not a place for personalization.

      1. “Liturgical actions are communal actions.”

        Yet they are also individual actions. There is no need to separate the two aspects.

        Your insistence on either/or above both/and is a critically weak point in your argumentation.

  14. Ben,
    That is true in the States and in Canada too. Some pastors are more observant of the norms than are others. The important point is what the local norms call pastors and parishioners to do. What are the approved adaptations in Scotland’s edition of the General Instruction?

  15. So far as I know, there has never been any mandated uniformity of posture of the congregation at a traditional Latin Mass. Today, for instance, you can see people all standing for the Preface or Pater Noster at one TLM, but kneeling for it at another. (And both are frequently seen at the same TLM.) Or at one TLM the people may always kneel for the Sanctus, while in some the people stand if it’s chanted, but kneel if it’s said or sung in polyphony. Some congregations always stand for the Gloria, but others remain kneeling for it at a low Mass. Of course, everyone always kneels (unless physically unable) for the canon and for communion–though apparently by custom rather than by rubric–but otherwise few if any get uptight about the afore-mentioned variances.

    So it seems that the minute regulation of the people’s posture is a strictly Novus Ordo obsession. Along with the appearance of people called “liturgists”, who apparently get their jollies out of forcing others to do whatever it is they’d prefer not to do. And, seemingly, are especially insistent that no one else show any reverence that they themselves do not feel.

  16. Henry Edwards :
    So far as I know, there has never been any mandated uniformity of posture of the congregation at a traditional Latin Mass.

    Exactly, but that’s not the full story.

    Not only was there no “mandated uniformity of posture of the congregation” but in fact the pre-Vatican II Missal does not even MENTION the congregation AT ALL – not even at Communion time!

    It was a rite that needed reforming.

    1. Anyone up for reflecting on the fact that Orthodox Christians never kneel during the Divine Liturgy? Their rites certainly pre-date the Tridentine Rite.
      Are they less reverent for doing so?

      Proposing a practice in which every participant assumes whatever posture suits him/ her is an interesting form of libertarianism coming from TLM folks. Aren’t they the ones who deride priests from even the slightest variation from texts or rubrics. Methinks the issue there is that what the people are doing at Mass is irrelevant to the sacred actions performed by the priest. Maybe I’m wrong.

      1. I think what many people are writing is that we should respect the various traditions of the various rites of the Church. The Eastern Rite tradition indeed stands as a form of reverence and the Latin Rite and many Protestant denomination evolved from the Western Rite kneel, but standing is not unknown. It would be nice to appreciate our Latin Rite and all of its customs both in the EF and OF without having to deride any of them or play “I’m better than you” theology.

      2. But that standing posture is complemented by prostrations that occur in worship at other points of the year. Cherry-picking Eastern posture references (we like their standing, but avoid their prostrations) betrays a typically Western misunderstanding of Eastern liturgy….

      3. I miss the Eastern churches which had no pews or seating other than chairs along the sides of the nave for the elderly, the sick, and women with cranky children.

        I’d like to see the Catholic Church go back to doing the same thing. Parishes could save a whopping amount of money doing
        it too. Seating for just those who need it.

        The laity can stand or sit on the floor, or kneel as they feel moved. Just as in the days of the early basilicas and house liturgies. With no carping, anal retentive rubricians directing us what to do or not to do and when.
        stand for everything

      4. “Anyone up for reflecting on the fact that Orthodox Christians never kneel during the Divine Liturgy?”

        Are you sure? Some Greek Orthodox kneel around the time of
        the epiclesis, and the Slavs have prostrations after it. If you’ll watch the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy offered by Patriarch Bartholomew I in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, the Patriarch kneels at the time of the epiclesis.

        I’ve personally seen a Russian Orthodox women touch her head to the floor during Divine Liturgy in a Greek Orthodox cathedral, and I’ve seen
        videos and pictures of Russian and Antiochian Orthodox liturgies — including one Patriarchal liturgy by Kirill of Moscow — where some or most of the clergy and the servers inside the iconostasis prostrate completely.

    2. but in fact the pre-Vatican II Missal does not even MENTION the congregation AT ALL

      Nonsense. The priest *addresses* the congregation. That’s what all that turning about and Dominus Vobiscumming is.

      1. My New (sic) Roman Missal in Latin and English (Benziger Brothers, 1956) says the following on page 68 under “Ceremonies for the Laity”

        “The following is a summary of ceremonies.. Uniformity in this matter would greatly add to the edification of the people..

        Low Mass: When the celebrant enters the sanctuary the laity rise and remain standing till he descends to the foot of the altar to begin Mass. They then kneel and remain so through out the Mass, except during the two Gospels, during which they stand. Rubricae Generales Missalis, Tit. 17, n.2) De Herdt (Vol. I. n.146) says this rubric is not preceptive but directive only.

        High Mass. The rubrics give no direction . Gavantus (Pars I. Tit 17) and Pouget (Institutiones Catholicae in modum Catecheseos , Pars 3, Sect 2 cap. 7 #29) say that the people may conform to the rules given for those who are in choir.”

        All you who love to quote rubrics can look all this up for future reference. I would tell you what the rules for choir were but they are too long. Some of you I suspect know them.

        The bottom line as I see is that there were not any rules for the laity but they did their best to provide some direction, but it really was not preceptive.

        In other words, you could do what you wanted as long as you didn’t stick out too much, which is kind of my philosophy today. Maybe I am a traditionalist?

      2. OK my point was exactly what I said:

        “the pre-Vatican II Missal does not even MENTION the congregation AT ALL – not even at Communion time”

        so, Sam, if what I wrote is, as you say “nonsense” – WHERE are the laity mentioned in any pre-Vatican II edition of the Missale Romanum?

      3. Chris, when the priest says, “The Lord be With You” (a greeting which is in the Missal) he’s referring to the entire congregation, including the laity (albeit using a pronoun). Perhaps you meant that they are not mentioned in the rubrics? But you didn’t write that.

        But if you meant that they’re not mentioned in the rubrics, you’re also wrong. In the Ritus servandus (V.i.):

        Dicto Hymno Gloria in excelsis, vel, si non sit dicendus, eo omisso, Celebrans osculatur Altare in medio, manibus hinc inde super eo, ut supra, extensis: tum illis ante pectus junctis, et demissis ad terram oculis, vertit se a sinistro latere ad dexterum versus populum,…

        .

  17. “Are they less reverent for doing so?”

    One can be either reverent or irreverent while standing. Or while kneeling. One can be either reverent or irreverent while receiving on the hand. Or while receiving on the tongue.

    The pertinent question is whether one knows what reverence is and has a proper disposition toward it. If so, he can probably achieve it with any given posture or practice. Notwithstanding the fact that—because of cultural factors—one posture or practice may more readily encourage reverence than another in a given time or place, but have the opposite effect in another time or place.

    For instance, in our own Latin tradition, there have been times when reverence was associated more with communion on the hand, and others when more with communion on the tongue.

  18. I really hate fights about this stuff from either side. It seems one side is saying, in effect, “Any way you can pray, I can pray harder”, but we’re going to make you do it our way. This trends toward being Pharisee-like; not a particularly good position in Scripture. But the other side in opposition seems to overlook the passages where Jesus came not abolish the law, but to fulfill it. We’re not supposed to be in opposition to each other.

  19. Couldn’t agree more with Tom Poelker. One can argue endlessly about preferences, but what counts is the theology behind the gesture or posture, but even more fundamentally, that there be uniformity in posture and gesture, as the GIRM clearly explains. Liturgy is primarily ritual – actions that are repeated and predictable. Good ritual demands a great measure of uniformity, as a powerful sign the unity of the assembly. Personal preferences, no matter how theologically sophisticated, should be left at the door. Good liturgical ritual may very well require a bit of surrender and Christian ego-swallowing. Should things be different at the next liturgy, or at the parish next door, then so be it.

  20. Go to Mass in Germany and observe what happens during the Eucharistic Prayer:

    Some will be standing from the Preface onwards, some kneeling, some sitting.
    Before the Institution narrative, many will change posture. Some of those who were sitting will kneel, some who were sitting will stand, etc, etc (you can work out all the permutations).
    After the institution narrative, a similar multiple change of posture for the acclamation.
    And again before the doxology.
    And of course some will remain standing/sitting/kneeling throughout, with no change of posture at all.

    The interesting thing about all this is that no one seems to mind very much, and I have never detected anyone attributing any significance to any particular posture. There seems to be freedom to do what one feels is appropriate.

    I was interested to see that a similar latitude obtained in the Duomo in Milan during an Ambrosian Rite Mass there two years ago, though that could have been down to the large number of visitors with different traditions for posture. And the same thing again in St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna three years ago.

    Once again, no uniformity of posture, and no one seems to mind. Are the strictures we are discussing a purely Anglo-Saxon phenomenon?

    1. Are the strictures we are discussing a purely Anglo-Saxon phenomenon?

      I don’t think so. For me the operative values are found in the General Instruction:

      Gestures and Bodily Posture
      42. The gestures and bodily posture of both the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers, and also of the people, must be conducive to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, to making clear the true and full meaning of its different parts, and to fostering the participation of all. Attention must therefore be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice.

      A common bodily posture, to be observed by all those taking part, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered together for the Sacred Liturgy, for it expresses the intentions and spiritual attitude of the participants and also fosters them.

      43. The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance Chant, or while the Priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia Chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Universal Prayer; and from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren), before the Prayer over the Offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated here below.

      The faithful should sit, on the other hand, during the readings before the Gospel and the Responsorial Psalm and for the Homily and during the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory; and, if appropriate, they may sit or kneel during the period of sacred silence after Communion.

      In the dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by ill health, or for reasons of lack of space, of the large number of people present, or for another reasonable cause. However, 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 (Lamb of God) unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise.

      For the sake of uniformity in gestures and bodily postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the instructions which the Deacon, a lay minister, or the Priest gives, according to what is laid down in the Missal.

      * * *

      95. In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people of God’s own possession and a royal Priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the unblemished sacrificial Victim not only by means of the hands of the Priest but also together with him and so that they may learn to offer their very selves. They should, moreover, take care to show this by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration.

      They are consequently to avoid any appearance of singularity or division, keeping in mind that they have only one Father in heaven and that hence are all brothers or sisters one to the other.

      96. Moreover, they are to form one body, whether in hearing the Word of God, or in taking part in the prayers and in the singing, or above all by the common offering of the Sacrifice and by participating together at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and bodily postures observed together by the faithful.

      I am quoting from the uniform English translation of the Instruction, to be published with the various national editions of the Roman Missal.

  21. I think Paul Ford is trying to impose upon us an Anglo-Saxon legalistic interpretation of some ideals in the GIRM that might be good as ideals but are going to alienate many people when applied in Anglo-Saxon legalistic ways.

    1. This is nothing new… and the only people I can imagine finding such a thing offensive are those who think they can do whatever they want at Mass.

      From Sacrosanctum Concilium:

      Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the “sacrament of unity,” namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops. Therefore liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church; they manifest it and have effects upon it; but they concern the individual members of the Church in different ways, according to their differing rank, office, and actual participation. It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private (Constitution, 26, 27).

  22. I’m personally happy with the idea of uniform posture as a sign of unity, allowing of course for the elderly, infirm and disabled. What intrigues me is the way that on the continent of Europe no one seems to mind non-uniformity of posture — and Germany, as we know, is a country which has a tradition of uniformity and regimentation: you would have thought this might have offended their sense of orderliness.

    I do not know enough about this area to know if our European cousins had (as I imagine) the same postures as we did in pre-conciliar celebrations, and thus have developed a more relaxed attitude to these things during the past 40 years (regardless of what the documents say), or whether they always had a variety of postures. If the former, then that 40-year period is a remarkably short space of time in which to develop a “non-tradition”.

    Incidentally, in my narrative above, I omitted a further multiple change of posture — at the end of the Sanctus. The general impression is one of people bobbing up and down at random all through the Eucharistic Prayer. Once again, no one seems too bothered by this. I find it a pleasing contrast with Anglo-Saxon congregations where a lack of reverence may well be imputed by some to anyone who is not kneeling, for example, and judgemental attitudes seem to be rife while charity and tolerance seem to be largely absent.

    Or perhaps the Europeans are simply asserting their individuality and making a variety of statements by the postures that they choose to adopt at different times.

  23. At today’s Masses, I was more conscious of my parishioners posture because of this post. Happily it seems everyone was doing the same thing except for a few who sat rather when others knelt, but no one stood while others knelt. Some held hands at the Our Father as we sang it. It was at communion time that there is more of a variety in the procession, some bowing, some genuflecting, and a minor few kneeling on the hard marble floor. But what I thought was more interesting is the fact that I was even trying to look for all this. Facing the people for Mass makes some priests more like a “liturgy policeman” preoccupied if people are doing what they should be doing. Whereas when I celebrate the EF Mass at 2:00 PM today, implicit in my inability to watch the congregation is trust that they are, 1. there; 2. are praying and responding as they should; 3. not sneaking up on me behind my back and 4. that they are not causing liturgical chaos behind my back by their various postures, standing or kneeling. Implicit in this is trusting that they are adults who don’t need father’s supervision during Mass.

  24. Dunstan Harding :
    I miss the Eastern churches which had no pews or seating other than chairs along the sides of the nave for the elderly, the sick, and women with cranky children.

    Churches were not commonly furnished with permanent pews before the Protestant Reformation. The rise of the sermon as a central act of Christian worship, especially in Protestantism, made the pew a standard item of church furniture.

    In some churches, pews were installed at the expense of the congregants, and were their personal property; there was no general public seating in the church itself. In these churches, pew deeds recorded title to the pews, and were used to convey them. Pews were originally purchased from the church by their owners under this system, and the purchase price of the pews went to the costs of building the church. When the pews were privately owned, their owners sometimes enclosed them in lockable pew boxes, and the pews were frequently not of uniform construction. Conversely, some churches were fitted with uniform box pews throughout (some of these may have been owned by families or held as possessions of properties in the parish) so that all would be available to the general congregation. The purchase or rental of pews was sometimes controversial, as in the case of B. T. Roberts: a notice that the pews were to be free in perpetuity was sometimes erected as a condition of building grants.

    Wikipedia “pews”

  25. Matthew Hazell :

    “Liturgical actions are communal actions.”
    Yet they are also individual actions. There is no need to separate the two aspects.
    Your insistence on either/or above both/and is a critically weak point in your argumentation.

    Yet, when discussing the liturgical reasons for doing things, it is the communal nature which is relevant, the personal is incidental, not the focus.

  26. It will do us all well to re read Jungman’s History of the Mass pp 237-244 in the 1 Vol English edition. Kneeling at Mass came into the liturgy when the low mass became the dominant for mass. Standing was the universal practice for all masses at which songs hymns or chants were sung. In the Middle Ages the penitential nature of kneeling was inserted into Liturgy to emphaaize the sinfullness of the people. This fit well the popular Passion Piety of the day in which the physical sufferings of Christ were emphasized and the guilt ofthe people was taught and emphasized. “You crucified Christ with your sins”

    The Long standing tradition of standing was forgotten when the immigrants came to America. KNeelers were put into every church here, but note well NOT in Europe! The clergy centered low mass was the norm, the 1917 code of canon law enshrined the great pyramid of the Holy Pope, Cardinals Bishops, priests,religious with the sinful laity at the bottom and so kneel we must. Vatican II used Jungman’s study to correct this abberation, restore the REesurrection to the first place in liturgy, have us stand at mass and delete Passion Piety for good. I will not go back to the Middle ages piety, liturgy or vision of the church which the 2000 some bishops at Vataican II erased for good. Stand, be redeemed, celebrate!

    Read J Jungmann’s History of the Mass of the Roman Rite. Facts erase the petty agenda of the current Roman curia and its American flunky bishops. They desperately want to er instate the 1917 version of the church, guilt of the people and an image of Christ who only died for sins (But really did not rise & give us the Holy Spirit). nuf said!

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