Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Flectamus Genua – Let Us Kneel

August 23rd, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

A short while ago, I posted a piece on the progressives’ disdain for the purification of sacred vessels used at Mass. Today I’d like to take a look at their general disdain for kneeling. In my opinion, the urge not to kneel at Mass is one which stems from any one of three things: Ignorance, Arrogance, and Hesitance. There are those who grow up, go through Rochester’s Catholic School system, volunteer to serve Mass, and never even witness the faithful kneeling. It’s not the young folks’ fault if they’ve never seen such a liturgical action. However, this ignorance doesn’t pardon all of those who refuse to bend the knee to Our God and King. It is these two categories I would like to focus on.

I would like to look, first, at what the Holy Scriptures say about kneeling. First we look at the Psalms.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; and make a joyful noise to him with psalms.  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 For in his hand are all the ends of the earth: and the heights of the mountains are his. 5 For the sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Come let us adore and fall down: and weep before the Lord that made us. 7 For he is the Lord our God: and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. 8 Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95: 2-8)

As Catholics, we come “before his presence” every time we step foot inside our parishes, for God reigns from the tabernacle, whether it is prominently enthroned on the altar or irreverently buried in the utility closet. Regardless of location, God reigns. And yet how often do we fail to “adore and fall down, and weep before the Lord that made us”? I recently made a holy hour at a local parish (that will remain nameless). As I was sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, a woman came in, walked right past the tabernacle, but fell to her knees before a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Her intentions, though headed in the right direction, failed to realize the preeminence of the Blessed Sacrament over a mere statue. One is plaster, one is Creator. Which one would you kneel to? But, of course, this would fall under the category of being “ignorant” of the significance of the Blessed Sacrament. Many times I hear people say, “you mean, we can pray in front of the Mass left-overs?” That’s a disgusting mentality, but the penalty doesn’t rest with them. No, it rests with the arrogant priests, nuns, lay people, and “liturgists” who devalue the Blessed Sacrament. It’s God, and to treat Him like anything less than divine is sinful.

Now let’s look at the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew:

20 Then came to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee with her sons, adoring and asking something of him. 21 Who said to her: What will you? She said to him: say that these my two sons may sit, the one on your right hand, and the other on your left, in your kingdom. 22 And Jesus answering, said: You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink? They say to him: We can. 23 He says to them: My chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father. 24 And the ten, hearing it, were moved with indignation against the two brethren. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said: You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and that they that are the greater, exercise power upon them. 26 It shall not be so among you: but whosoever is the greater among you, let him be your minister. 27 And he that will be first among you shall be your servant. 28 Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life as redemption for many.

Many translations use the word “kneeling” instead of “adoring,” but the meaning is still clear. The mother of the sons of Zebedee was humbly beseeching the Lord for an intention. She didn’t approach him with a casual demeanor or a demand, but rather, a request. She begs Our Lord to give her the grace of having her sons on His right and left in the Kingdom of Heaven. And notice that Jesus gives answer. Just as we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, be it in a chapel, a church, or at the communion rail, we are praying to be found worthy to receive Him. Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea. Lord, I am not worthy to receive Thee under my roof, but say the word and my soul shall be healed. Those who have faith in Our Lord approach him with humility – without presumption, without haughtiness. When was the last time you saw one of our high-risk litrurgical offenders humble himself or herself before the Lord? I’m not judging their souls, just their actions, and by their actions we can see that there is no respect for the Blessed Sacrament, no respect for God reigning from the priest’s fingers at the moment of consecration. No – they stand, they gawk, they extend their hands as if they have the right to do so. Guess what – they don’t. No one has the right to do such a thing. Even the priest says multiple prayers, bowing, which focus on his unworthiness to perform the sacred mysteries.

The arrogant are the worst offenders of Our Lord’s dignity. But there are those who refuse to kneel because “only the really intense people kneel.” That’s just foolish. If you really believe that that “piece of bread” is Jesus, the Son of the Living God, why aren’t you on your stomachs prostrate before Him? There is a popular annecdote of a Muslim saying that he could be a Catholic, but it was obvious to him that Catholics generally don’t understand what they profess to believe. Why? “Because if I believed that piece of Eucharistic bread was wholly God, I would be on my hands and knees in tears, begging for mercy.” Sounds kind of like Psalm 95, doesn’t it? Come let us adore and fall down: and weep before the Lord that made us. If you fall into the category of “Hesitance” I would pray that you find the courage to worship God in the form of a suppliant, not an equal. For even Our Lord “did not find equality with God something to be grasped at.”

Liberals are unable to bend their knees to anyone but themselves. When they come face to face with God in Heaven, I hope that then they realize that they were doing the improper thing on Earth, worshiping community over Our Lord. I am certain that God’s infinite mercy would be shown to them, as I pray it will be for all of us, for what are these liberals but mere wayward children having liturgical temper-tantrums? In most cases, I would be comfortable saying that the things we see aren’t the products of a malicious spirit alone, but also a loss of touch with sacramental reality. A Catholic believes in the Real Presence. Let us pray, on our knees before God, that this faith in the Real Presence be nurtured by our priests in their example, our bishops by their teaching authority, and by our religious in their tireless devotion, not to self, but to the God whom they vowed to serve over all else. We all have failings, friends, but when we have the satisfaction of being grounded in the Faith, overcoming our sins is that much easier. Thank God that many Catholics still have a sense of the Sacred, that they genuflect when passing before the tabernacle, that they receive Communion with humble and contrite hearts.

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8 Responses to “Flectamus Genua – Let Us Kneel”

  1. Dr. K says:

    When you repeatedly call the Lord “brother”, you probably have forgotten that He is your God.

  2. Mike says:

    I was once at a parish where a staff person (Noah’s grandmother, for those of you familiar with the Greece/Charlotte area) claimed that kneeling at Mass wasn’t really necessary, that they didn’t do it in Europe, yadda yadda yadda.

    I asked her about Paul’s exhortation in Phillipians 2:

    Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    “If every knee should bow at the mention of the name of Jesus,” I asked her, “what should every knee do in response to his actual presence on the altar during Mass?”

    I don’t think they taught her an answer to that question at St. Bernard’s, as she quickly changed the subject.

  3. monk says:

    I believe that one of the main reasons that St. Thomas the Apostle has been slated for closure is because they kneel for Communion. It has been stated by DoR leadership that “if they would only change” possibly the outcome at STA could have been different. The liberal elite in the DoR can’t stand STA’s worship style, especially kneeling at Communion. The recent pastors didn’t have the “guts” to try to put an end to the practice. Sadly, they have to close down the entire parish to put an end to STA’s worship style. So much for diversity in the DoR!

  4. Christopher says:

    This is a great article, is there any way it can be added to the wiki in some way shape or form?

    It would be great to see a section of the wiki on popular forms of liturgical abuse and why they are considered abuse.

  5. benanderson says:

    I started a template for this:

    I believe the wiki is open to anyone. Feel free to create the “Illicit Posture” page.

  6. Bernie says:

    “that they didn’t do it in Europe”

    I’ve heard that many times over the years and wondered who started that falsehood. We’ve been to Europe (also Asia, the Middle East, and Africa) over twenty times since 1994 and have never known that to be true. (However, like here, we have run into a couple of churches where few kneel.) The rules are a little different there than here; they kneel for only the consecration, but they do kneel and they do, for the most part, have kneelers. Even if they don’t have kneelers, they kneel for the consecration. There are some places like St. Peter’s that don’t even have seats. Folding chairs are brought in for Mass. Many people still kneel although I got to tell you that marble floor is damn hard! It’s also difficult because the rows of chairs are lined up so close behind each other that there is barely enough room to get to your seat. Those places tend to be very crowded with tourists at Mass and so a smaller percentage of the congregation will kneel simply because it’s not really all that possible to do it prayerfully. Generally, however, the smaller churches have kneelers and people, if they are able, kneel for the consecration.

    Incidently, the practice of the Orthodox Churches is often cited in support of standing throughout the liturgy. Yet, we’ve been at Orthodox liturgies when everyone knelt at the invocation of the Holy Spirit just following the “consecration.” Many in the congregation will even kneel in adoration as the priest processes by on the way to the altar with the bread and wine to be consecrated. If they don’t kneel they will make a profound bow and make the sign of the cross.

    There are a lot of liturgists and other “experts” out there who, like Noah’s grandmother, have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

  7. Mike says:

    There are a lot of liturgists and other “experts” out there who, like Noah’s grandmother, have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

    And the local ones, like Noah’s grandmother, were mostly trained at St. Bernard’s.

  8. Dr. K says:

    “Incidently, the practice of the Orthodox Churches is often cited in support of standing throughout the liturgy.”

    They kneel at the Eastern Rite St. Josephat church in Irondequoit.

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