Monday, February 07, 2011

Kneeling and the Eucharistic Prayer

Sometimes, when I go to certain Catholic churches, no one kneels during the Eucharistic Prayer. When that happens, should I kneel or just remain standing like everyone else?

First, I should say that only the bishop can speak authoritatively on this matter. I can only share my personal thoughts as a student of the liturgy and the Church.

That said, it might help to define what the “Eucharistc Prayer” is. Basically, this is the period of the Mass when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord. This is when the Sacrifice of Christ, together with our own sacrifices, is offered to the Father for the salvation of souls. It begins after the gifts are taken up to the altar and the priest prays over them. It ends after the “Great Amen”, when we stand to pray the “Our Father.”

There is a reason why we are called to kneel during this time. As the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (or “GIRM”) tells us, the Eucharistic Prayer is “the center and summit of the entire celebration” (no. 78). This is when a great miracle takes place. It is in the midst of the Eucharistic Prayer that Jesus Christ Himself becomes substantially present among us, waiting to abide within us. It stands to reason that we should give this moment our greatest act of reverence and worship, which is kneeling.

That we should kneel, instead of sitting or standing, to show this reverence and worship is not so much dictated by our culture as it is by Sacred Scripture and Tradition. In the Old Testament, we see that, at the dedication of the Temple, Solomon knelt "in the presence of all the assembly of Israel" (2 Chron 6:13). Ezra fell upon his knees during the evening sacrifice (cf. Ezra 9:5). The Acts of the Apostles tells us how Peter (9:40), Paul (20:36), and the whole Christian community (21:5) prayed on their knees. Jesus himself knelt down to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Lk 22:41). As you can see, it is not above anyone to kneel.

Now, the GIRM does say that one is excused from kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer if “prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason” (no. 43). But, I’ve never been to a church or chapel in Owensboro where I wasn’t able to kneel. Yes, it may be a little uncomfortable if there are no kneelers, and it can be a little embarrassing if you are the only one kneeling. But, as long as you are physically able to kneel, you should.

The Son emptied himself, took on the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:7-8). The least we can do is kneel in worship of him (and praise Him if it requires a sacrifice on our part), so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:10).

Pax Christi,


  1. Can someone be prohibited from kneeling after communion? Someone I know is being told that if she wants to continue lectoring, she may not kneel after communion.

  2. You mean once she returns to her pew? The CDW responded to a dubmium by one of the US bishops by stating that the time of prayer after Communion begins once the communicant returns to his/her pew, and the GIRM indicates that the posture for this time is kneeling or sitting. However, some dioceses are having their parishioners remain standing until everyone has received communion and then the people take their posture of prayer. This interpretation of the GIRM has gained in popularity as of late. If this is what the bishop has decided to do in his diocese, then she should follow it. As in, she should remain standing until everyone has received, and then kneel for the time of prayer. But, if this is just something that her parish is doing (which is also the case in many places: within the same diocese some parishes stand, others don't), then I think she is within her rights to kneel as soon as she returns to her pew, and an ultimatum shouldn't be placed on her role as a lector.

    I hope that answers your question.

  3. Yes, once she returns to her pew.

    No, it is not a bishop's is a priest's mandate for this particular parish.

    Thank you for helping. What do you mean by this interpretation of the GIRM?

  4. By "this interpretation of the GIRM" I mean the understanding that the GIRM somehow requires everyone to stand until all have received Communion. The GIRM is a little ambiguous on this point, and so some bishops have advocated standing whereas others have simply continued the long-standing practice of kneeling in prayer once the communicant returns to the pew. I wish the CDW would do something to establish more uniformity within the Church in the US on this matter.


Related Posts with Thumbnails