Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Postures and Gestures at Mass

October 21st, 2009, Promulgated by Choir

This post, hopefully, will help you understand the postures and gestures used at Mass. For many older Catholics, these were a normal part of Catholic life and culture. They were used almost everyday and grew out of the Tridentine Mass, most of these gestures can be used also in the Novus Ordo Mass. It will add reverence to either form of Mass.

Bow of the head

How: Very slightly lower your chin toward your throat and hold a moment

When: Any time you hear the Name “Jesus” whether in English or Latin. 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.

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. At the Gloria Patri (Glory Be) also.

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.

When: At Mass at during 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.

Bow at the waist (or “profound bow”)

How: A 30 degree forward bow from the waist.

When: At the Asperges before Mass when the priest sprinkles the congregation with Holy Water. When the altarboy incenses the congregation during Mass. Cross yourself and make a profound bow when and if the priest and crucifer walk down the aisle before and after Mass. 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.

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. We would do this to Bishop Clark, but only in his diocese.

Genuflection on Right Knee

How: Looking at what you are genuflecting toward, kneel on your right knee for a moment, 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.

When: 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.

Kneeling (Double Genuflection)

How: Kneel on both knees

When: Any time the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, to show adoration and humility. During the Mass at the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar (this only during the Tridentine Mass), at the Sanctus, after the Agnus Dei, at the Communion rail (only Tridentine here too), and at the Last Blessing.



5 Responses to “Postures and Gestures at Mass”

  1. Gen says:

    lol @ "We would do this for Bishop Clark."

    Primarily, I don't think he'd want it to be done, or even permitted for that matter.

    Secondly, I don't know many Catholics who would willingly genuflect to him.

  2. gretchen says:

    It's always proper to set a good example for the poorly catechized.

  3. Gen says:

    Indeed, Gretchen. I think it would be as strong a symbol to the faithful as it would to Bishop Clark if large numbers of people actually followed proper protocol.

  4. Yapollo says:

    Wow, it has been awhile since I have seen a few of these. I think you made an excellent decision adding in a list, for no Catholic blog would be complete.

  5. ben says:

    The only time I'v ever seen the left knee genuflection to a bishop was in Italy.

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