Bishop Paprocki: Bow Only if You Cannot Genuflect

His Excellency Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki; Ars celebrandi et adorandi

On the Art of Celebrating the Eucharistic Liturgy

The art of celebrating the liturgy properly and adoring the Lord in the Eucharist devoutly (ars celebrandi et adorandi) is the key to fostering the active participation of the People of God in divine worship. (Part 2 of series)

genuflection

A reverent genuflection. 

To bend the knee

28. In recent years, there has arisen the practice of bowing to the Lord present in the tabernacle, rather than genuflecting before him. Such a profound bow — made purposefully and reverently from the waist — can be a fitting way to reverence the Divine Majesty, but only if one cannot genuflect, which is not always the same as having some difficulty genuflecting.

29. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides that “if, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is situated in the sanctuary, the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself. Otherwise all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession. Ministers carrying the processional cross or candles bow their heads instead of genuflecting.”17

30. To genuflect means, literally, “to bend the knee.” In the ancient world the knee symbolized the strength of a man. If a man is struck in the knee, he stumbles and falls; his strength is taken from him. When we genuflect before the Lord, our strength is not taken from us; rather, we willingly bend our strength to the Lord and place ourselves humbly in his service. When we bend our knee to the Lord of heaven and earth we should hear the words of the Psalmist ever in our hearts, “Lord, I am your servant,” remembering that before the Lord every knee must bend (Psalm 116:16; cf. Philippians 2:10).

31. I must note here, that as important as the Eucharist is to the Church, and that the proper reverence to the Blessed Sacrament is “to bend the knee,” to genuflect, it does not replace another reverence made by all between the opening and the closing processions. During Liturgy between these processions, all who enter or leave the sanctuary, or who pass before the altar, make a deep bow, a bow from the waist toward the altar. Neither a deep bow or a genuflection is made to the tabernacle within the Mass between the opening and closing processions.18

How to Genuflect

32. In order to keep these words in our hearts and put them into practice, it is helpful to be purposeful and deliberate in the moment of genuflection. One may avoid a hasty and irreverent slide through an attempted genuflection by consciously touching the right knee to the ground and humbly pausing momentarily before rising again. In doing so, we not only pay proper respect to the Lord, but we also remind ourselves in whose presence we are.

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12 comments to Bishop Paprocki: Bow Only if You Cannot Genuflect

  • Greg

    30. To genuflect means, literally, “to bend the knee.” In the ancient world the knee symbolized the strength of a man. If a man is struck in the knee, he stumbles and falls; his strength is taken from him. When we genuflect before the Lord, our strength is not taken from us; rather, we willingly bend our strength to the Lord and place ourselves humbly in his service. When we bend our knee to the Lord of heaven and earth we should hear the words of the Psalmist ever in our hearts, “Lord, I am your servant,” remembering that before the Lord every knee must bend (Psalm 116:16; cf. Philippians 2:10)

    Very powerful…

  • Don Hickey

    Bishop Paproki, please ask all Bishops in the United States to implement your changes so that ONE…CHURCH will ACT as ONE…CHURCH. There has been enough, O, we don’t do it that way here! If no altar rail,why not at least a kneeler.
    Glad to see the correct way to kneel. I was taught, kneel on the left knee to common royalty and on the right knee to GOD ALONE.

  • Mary Elizabeth

    Saddens me that I simply can’t genuflect anymore. I make a purposeful deep bow and linger for a few seconds. I belong on my knees before the Almighty God. With good kneelers, I can kneel for a while, but often have to sit at the edge of the pew. I never recline fully. I am humbled before the Lord. Genuflection is the gift of humility before Our God.

  • Mary Colanero

    I have been confused about this and asked so many people never getting a status factory answers. Finally one that makes sense though I do not see anyone doing it. Should you bow or neglect just before receiving the host?

  • w

    I will ask you–did genuflecting come about to avoid “you shall not…bow to them….”??–Quoting the Commandment Regarding bowing to idols–to DISTINGUISH FROM AN IDOL THE COMMUNION HOST/S?. . .

    • Richard

      In the Byzantine Catholic Church they make a profound bow and stand during the reception of the Eucharist. Why? You always stand before royalty. Notez Bien: Their rubrics are more ancient than ours in the West.

  • Interesting, from the viewpoint of an Eastern Catholic, where the opposite is true. In the Eastern Church (Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic in my case) we don’t “genuflect”; we always bow – and many times during The Divine Liturgy – at other times in the course of a bow, we will touch the ground w/right hand.
    Also, B-T-W, Holy Eucharist is dispensed by the Priest ONLY, both forms, via a golden spoon from the Chalice to each recipient. No “civilian” aides — if there were 1000 persons lined up to receive, it would simply take longer.

    It’s my understanding, that some/many of the changes Vatican II ushered-in for Latin Catholics,as in distribution of Holy Eucharist, were/are seen as “dictated” changes vs. “options” local Bishops COULD institute. Eastern Catholics haven’t been affected by these things; we continue w/an ancient Divine Liturgy as do our Orthodox Brothers.

  • Leona Garzelli

    I’ve always genuflected…and I’ve noticed how many churches still have kneeling rails but don’t use them. There are many others whom I’ve seen genuflect, but it’s such a “fast moving” world we live in and people are always in a hurry to get mass over with and move on. Jesus is before us and I’m in no hurry to leave Him……let’s pray for true conversion of heart of all and ask for Pope Francis and all our bishops to bring to all Catholic’s attention the facts of Vatican II and how the genuflection, the Eucharist on the tongue, and our beautiful Catholic chants were not to put out of the mass.

  • Frederick Guttilla

    Bishop Paprocki

    I wish you were my Bishop, I’m tried of the nice church, in my parish the pastor tells jokes. I knee for Holy Communion and always genuflect before enter the pew. I love being a catholic it’s the true faith.

  • Anthony Fantozzi

    Now I am confused. First the goods Bishop says that we must genuflect and then that between processions we must bow. Which is it?

  • Shirley Walker

    I am able to genuflect if I have somethng to hold on to; pew.I have noticed a lack of reverence in other areas. How did we get to this place? I’ve started receiving the Holy Eucharist on my tongue and I’m seeing more Catholics doing the same especially our youth! Love your website. Share it frequently♡

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