Monday, February 22, 2010


Stuck for time today. So, before the Our Father, one last thought. A couple years ago you might have noticed that we were told you have to kneel during the eucharistic prayer -- or at least during the institution narrative. This was part of the new General Instruction for the Roman Missal, decreed from Rome, which was then further defined by the American bishops.

And at the heart of the matter was a concern for reverence. The eucharistic prayer being this time of consecration, it was thought the appropriate posture on the part of the congregation was kneeling. This is the same rationale given for the request that everyone now bow slightly before receiving communion.

One might wonder, why did we ever stop kneeling? Why this tradition in some parishes to stand? Well, it came from a different sense of what's happening in the moment. Kneeling is the posture of reverence and witness; those who kneel are watching this important event unfold and asking to be worthy of it.

Standing, on the other hand, is the posture of participation. It indicates that we are all praying this prayer together. Which is entirely acceptable and appropriate. Again, as any theologian will agree, it's not the priest's prayer, it's the community's. But the current trend in Rome is to try more to distinguish the presider from the congregation. Hence, no standing. And also, eucharistic ministers are not allowed to receive communion with the priest, but only after; the presider is not supposed to leave the sanctuary during the Sign of Peace; and only he is allowed to purify the vessels after Mass.

All of which is to say, as much as we're saying it's all about reverence, and that's an important consideration, there are some other pretty significant eddies in that current.

If we want to talk about reverence -- and it's a great topic, so why not? -- I suggest we presiders should begin by considering ourselves. It's so easy to rush through the prayer, or even to check out as we say it. Are we giving the eucharistic prayer the moment it deserves? Are we taking our time? As we pray it, are we paying attention?

...And that's why we do confessions behind a screen...


Anonymous said...

My greatest concern with all these "rule" changes is the distraction from the purpose of Mass. So much time (at least in my parish) seems to be spent on INSTRUCTION and on all sorts of "add ons" (banners and extra stuff at the offertory and changing the petition response every six weeks, etc.) that people cannot quiet themselves to pray and to enter into the Mass. We have committees that spend indecent amounts of time thinking up new ways to "make the Mass more meaningful." Really? More meaningful than the worship of a God Incarnate who died and rose for us? Hmm.

I fear all the GIRM changes that are coming down the pike will do the same thing. The faithful Catholics to whom we've talked are either confused by all this and simply tired of it, or they believe that Rome (and the U.S. bishops) are finding 912 ways to distract themselves from what really concerns the people in the pews.

Not sure you can do anything about this, but perhaps it is just another voice from The Average Bear to add to the mix.

I do appreciate these reflections on the Mass, and they have been helpful in opening the liturgy to us more fully. (Anything that helps us focus on the Mass is helpful. See above...)

Off my soapbox and back to lurking. Sorry.

Michelle said...

I've been wondering about cultural disconnect with respect to postures for a while (OK, since I read a letter posted on a bulletin board quoting a local bishop's directive about kneeling -- ironically for a community where most of those who come could not kneel due to age or infirmity!)

I suspect for most Catholics, the standing posture signals respect and reverence. (What do you do when someone important walks into the room in our culture? Stand. When the national anthem is played? Stand.) So are we sending mixed messages with the postures? Our brains read kneeling as obedience (we do it because the GIRM says so), and standing as respect/reverence.