Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

Kneeling and Faith in the Eucharist

by Rev. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap.


An excellent article to help combat the widespread lack of reverence for Jesus' Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

Larger Work

Homiletic and Pastoral Review

Publisher & Date

Ignatius Press, August/September 1994

Seminarians and lay people (including converts) from various parts of the United States have mentioned to me over the past two years that they have been directed, and in some cases even coerced, into standing at the Consecration of the Mass by bishops, seminary rectors, pastors, directors of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) and coordinators of religious education. They have also been pressured to stand during the Consecration by laity, who refused to give them the communion kiss of peace, because they knelt when everyone else stood.

The reasons given by these zealous liturgical innovators for their disdain for kneeling were: there are no kneelers (they had recently been eliminated); the early Church stood during the Consecration; Vatican II said that we should give equal respect to the Scriptures and the Blessed Sacrament (therefore, stand for both); and today we must emphasize the Eucharistic Body of Christ as the spiritual presence of Christ in his people (i.e., the Church or the Mystical Body of Christ). Let us look at this last claim.

As many already know, the Church teaches that at the Consecration of the Mass the "whole Christ," his "soul and divinity," including his "physical 'reality,"' is made "corporeally" present through the miraculous "ontological" change called "transubstantiation."[1] Paul VI says in Mysterium Fidei that after the Consecration, "nothing remains of the bread and the wine except for the species."[2] And according to St. Thomas Aquinas, "species" has "being" in the "intellect," but it does not have being "outside of the soul" or mind.[3] Therefore, that, which is outside the mind of the person about to receive communion is Jesus Christ himself, not physical bread or wine.

Consequently, when Paul VI discussed the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in Mysterium Fidei, he stated:

And so it would be wrong for anyone to try to explain this manner of presence by dreaming up a so-called "pneumatic" nature of the glorious body of Christ that would be present everywhere; or for anyone to limit it to symbolism, as if this most sacred Sacrament were to consist in nothing more than an efficacious sign "of the spiritual presence of Christ and of His intimate union with the faithful, the members of His Mystical Body."[4]

Thus, the primary meaning of the words, "Body of Christ," at communion is not the spiritual or Mystical Body of Christ called the Church. Rather the primary meaning is the individual being of Jesus Christ, from and beyond history, the "substantial" or "whole Christ," including his "physical reality," made "corporeally" present.



The authoritative post-Vatican II directives on gestures and postures in the Roman Rite Liturgy are found in the 1985 Caeremoniale Episcoporum.[5] The Congregation of Divine Worship indicates this in the Caeremoniale itself. In the Ceremonial of Bishops, the English translation of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum, we find that the "norms" of the Ceremonial are to be a "model for all other celebrations" and "a model for the entire diocese."[6] Finally, the Ceremonial states:

The greater part of the liturgical laws contained in the new Ceremonial have their force from the liturgical books already published. Whatever is changed in the new Ceremonial is to be carried out in the manner the Ceremonial prescribes.[7]

It is clear that the Congregation intends the directives of the Ceremonial to be strictly applied. These directives are requirements and not options. This is evident in the Ceremonial's note on the alter native (for certain cultures) to substitute a cultural act of reverence for the celebrant's kissing of the altar when entering or leaving the sanctuary at the Eucharistic Liturgy. Even here, in this apparently minor matter, a bishop should only choose an alternative "after informing the Apostolic See."[8]

Let us examine the required gestures and postures of the faithful toward the Blessed Sacrament during the Eucharist while keeping the authority of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum in mind.

Required gestures and postures

After the Second Vatican Council, the Church stated in her General Instructions of the Roman Missal: "But, unless impeded by lack of space, density of crowd or other reasonable cause, they (the faithful) should kneel down for the Consecration."[9] This means kneeling from the beginning of the Epiclesis (the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the elements of bread and wine) until after the Consecration. The epiclesis is denoted by the priest "with hands outstretched over the offerings."[10]

This kneeling during the Consecration by the faithful is consistent with the Ceremonial's directives for deacons (especially during incensation) and for non- celebrating bishops who preside at the Eucharistic Liturgy. The Ceremonial states that "the blessed sacrament (note lower case, see below) is incensed from a kneeling position," not from a standing position as in all other cases of incensation.[11] Then the Ceremonial says:

One of the deacons puts incense into the censer and incenses the host and the cup at each elevation. The deacons remain kneeling from the epiclesis to the elevation of the cup.[12]

Later the Ceremonial states about bishops who preside but do not celebrate:

From the epiclesis until after the elevation of the cup, the bishop kneels facing the altar on a kneeler provided for him either in front of the chair or in some other convenient place. After the elevation, he stands once again at the chair.[13]

Following its directive for the faithful to kneel at the Consecration, the General Instructions of the Roman Missal says:

However, it is for the Bishops' Conference to adapt the postures and gestures here described as suitable for the Roman mass, so that they accord with the sensibilities of their own people, yet remain suited to the meaning and purpose of each part of the Mass.[14]

Consequently, the Catholic Bishops of the United States said in The Sacramentary that this Roman Missal directive to kneel at the Consecration be extended so that the faithful kneel, not only during the Consecration, but also from after the Sanctus (Holy, Holy) up to the Our Father. The Sacramentary states:

At its meeting in November 1969, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops voted that in general the directives of the Roman Missal concerning the posture of the congregation at Mass should be left unchanged, but that No. 21 of the General Instruction should be so adapted that the people kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic prayer, that is, before the Our Father.[15]

When the bishops directed the congregation to stand during the Our Father in No. 21 of The Sacramentary, the centuries-old American custom of kneeling from the Sanctus to the Communion was interrupted. And, while the bishops said nothing in their instruction on the Roman Missal about returning to a kneeling position after the Our Father (i.e ., from the Angus Dei or Lamb of God to the Communion), many Catholic people in the United States are trying to retain this liturgical sign of adoration and submission to Jesus Christ. Others. however. are encouraging people to stand at this time.

Recall that it was the practice of Latin Rite Catholics in the United States to kneel for the "Domine non sum dignus" ("Lord, I am not worthy"), because this bending of the knee by the faithful symbolized the "centurion's" great "faith" and submission to Our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 8:5-11). It was also the practice of the altar server to return to a kneeling position at this same time (after getting the server's paten). Today, however, this powerful symbol of faith seems about to disappear because most deacons, altar servers, and Eucharistic ministers stand at this moment of the Liturgy-apparently against the development of the Church's Eucharistic piety in America and without any solid reason based upon Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

The Church has also instructed that the traditional act of genuflection toward the Blessed Sacrament be maintained following the Second Vatican Council. The Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship says:

The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained. This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless.[16]

The Ceremonial also distinguishes between bows and genuflections. The Ceremonial states that a "bow of the body, or deep bow, is made to the altar if there is no tabernacle with the blessed sacrament (note lower case) on the altar," but "A genuflection, made by bending only the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and is therefore reserved for the blessed sacrament whether exposed or reserved in the tabernacle."[17]

A "strongly recommended" act

Previously, I had written about a Eucharistic practice which has been recommended by the Church for the faithful following the Second Vatican Council.[18] This act of reverence, which has been "strongly recommended" by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in 1967 and repeated by the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship in 1980, is as follows:

When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is required, since kneeling is itself a sign of adoration.

When they receive communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, coming up in procession, they should make a sign of reverence before receiving the Blessed Sacrament. This should be done at the right time and place, so that the order of people going to and from communion should not be disrupted.[19]

I argued that it appears from the context of the statement that the Congregations are here strongly recommending a genuflection, and not merely a sign of the cross or a mere bow of the head. First of all, the Congregations previously referred to "kneeling" as "a sign of adoration" and secondly, the reverential act which they recommend, if done out of place, would "disrupt" or interfere with "the order of people going to and from communion," which would not be the case if the recommended act was a mere sign of the cross or a bow of the head.[20]

That this sign of reverence is a genuflection, and not even a full body bow, is supported by the Ceremonial of Bishops. It has just been stated that the Ceremonial calls for a "bow of the body" before the "altar" while it reserves the "genuflection" for the "Blessed Sacrament." Once more, since this Ceremonial is a "model" for all Masses of the Roman Rite throughout the universal Church and since the spirituality of bishops and priests should be an example to the laity, the way the bishop and priests receive the Blessed Sacrament at Communion is a "model" for the laity. The Ceremonial states about the Communion of the Mass in which the bishop concelebrates with priests and distributes communion to the priests before saying "Lord, I am not worthy":

After saying inaudibly the prayer before communion, the bishop genuflects and takes the paten. One by one the concelebrants approach the bishop, genuflect, and reverently receive from him the body of Christ (note lower case of word, " body," see below).[21]

Now, if it is proper for priests to come and genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament prior to receiving communion from the bishop (who also genuflects), it should also be proper for the laity to come up and genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament prior to receiving communion from the priest or Eucharistic minister. The statement by the Church regarding the laity's reception should be interpreted consistently with the Ceremonial. The officially recommended act of reverence prior to receiving communion, when receiving in a standing position, is clearly a "genuflection."

Kneeling is an irreplaceable "work" of "faith"

There is a good reason why the Church reserves the genuflection for its official act of reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament. Not just any act can be used for an act of adoration. For example, one could never use standing as an act of adoration in our culture nor in the oriental culture. We stand when a bishop or the President of the United States comes into the room, but we do not adore either one of them. Similarly, today, many bow at the presence of great dignitaries and human authority, but they do not adore them. This is also the case in oriental cultures today.

But where do people kneel before any person or thing today? Some people may try to genuflect to the Pope, but the Pope is usually seen trying to raise the person up immediately. Again, the genuflection is reserved for adoration of the Eucharist.

Once more, the act of bending the knee before Jesus Christ is not just a relative act, or an act that is based purely on culture. Rather, it transcends culture because it is an act that has scriptural, traditional, and cosmic significance. God the Father says through Isaiah: "To me every knee shall bend" (Isa. 45:23). And St. Paul says, "for it is written: 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me"' (Rom. 14:11). Again, St. Paul states "at Jesus' name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth" (Phil. 2:10). And, this "kneeling," or "bending of the knee," is the act of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which has developed in the Tradition of the Church and which the faithful have adopted down through the ages. St. Francis of Assisi, for example, said in his twelfth century "Letter to All Superiors of the Friars Minor":

When the priest is offering sacrifice at the altar or the Blessed Sacrament is being carried about, everyone should kneel down and give praise, glory, and honor to our Lord and God, living and true.[22]

Thus, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger states in one of his theological works about the act of "kneeling" during the Liturgy: "Here the bodily gesture attains the status of a confession of faith in Christ: words could not replace such a confession."[23]

This statement of Cardinal Ratzinger reminds one of a theological maxim drawn from Church history and applied in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal: "lex orandi, lex credendi" ("what is prayed indicates what may and must be believed").[24] This Latin phrase "makes the rule of prayer a norm of belief."[25] It points out that "worship influences doctrine" and vice versa.[26] This "influence" of "worship" on "doctrine" also includes the gestures and postures of worship. Consequently, when Catholics "worship" by "bending the knee" in Eucharistic adoration, they strengthen belief in the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, for themselves and for the entire Church. And when they can and do not, they weaken it.

There are always those who will say that the only thing that is important is that one adore the Blessed Sacrament internally and that one must not get hung up on externals, like "kneeling." This resembles the argument used by the wealthy against feeding and clothing the poor. St. James dispels this argument against external actions of caring for the poor by saying: "Be assured, then, that faith without works is as dead as a body without breath" (James 2:26). And earlier St. James says: "Such faith has no power to save one, has it" (James 2:14)? The same can be said in reference to kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament at the Consecration in the Mass. When one claims to adore the Blessed Sacrament, but refuses to demonstrate "latria" (the act of adoration) on one's knees (when not prevented from doing so through some justifiable reason, like old age, etc), one's "faith" in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is "as dead as a body without breath."[27] "Such faith has no power to save one, has it?"

The book of the Gospel

It should be noted that, while the deacon incenses the lectionary before proclaiming the Gospel and the bishop kisses the lectionary after, still the Ceremonial of Bishops does not even require that a bow of the head be made to the lectionary when one approaches or passes by this book in the Liturgy.[28] This might surprise some people who have a tendency to place reverence for the lectionary on par with- or even above- reverence for the Blessed Sacrament by giving the lectionary the most prominent position in the sanctuary. Occasionally, one hears it said that the Second Vatican Council taught an equal reverence to lectionary and Blessed Sacrament. The Council is quoted:

The Church has always venerated the divine scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord, in so far as she never ceases, particularly in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the Word of God and the Body of Christ.[29]

But, the "in so far as" limits the similarity of reverence to the fact that the faithful have always been nourished from "the one table of the Word of God and the Body of Christ."

Unless we want Catholics to start genuflecting before the lectionary at Mass, we must conclude that those calling for an equal reverence have misinterpreted the Council. It is certainly true that we should reverence the "divine scriptures" as the "Word of God" just as we reverence the Eucharist as the "Body of Christ," but one must not confuse the physical or corporeal lectionary or bible with the "divine scriptures" or the "Word of God." The "divine scriptures" as the "Word of God" is something spiritual which issues from the Father and lives in the minds and hearts of the faithful. The physical and corporeal lectionary or bible, made of cardboard and paper, is only a symbol of this spiritual Word of God. The Word of God has a physical reality and corporeal form that can be handled and adored only in the Blessed Sacrament. While the physical lectionary is a symbol of the Word of God, the Blessed Sacrament is the Very Being of the Word of God.

So, one should respect the lectionary or bible, but one must adore only the Blessed Sacrament. Now it is just as wrong to lose a part of the Word of God through carelessness and neglect as it would be to lose a particle of the Body of Christ at communion. But, one loses part of the Word of God through carelessness and neglect by omitting some portion of the Word of God, or distorting the Magisterium's interpretation of it, when teaching and preaching, especially from the pulpit-not by failing to place the physical lectionary in the center of the sanctuary, crimping its pages, or loosing its binding and cover



One might consider why Catholic people in America are not all kneeling at the Consecration and at the "Lord, I am not worthy," nor all genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament. This is certainly unusual since kneeling at the Consecration and before the Blessed Sacrament are so clearly required in the Vatican's documents on the Liturgy and kneeling at the "Lord, I am not worthy" is a centuries-old custom in the United States.

Now, there may be more than one reason for this de-emphasis on liturgical kneeling. But, one should have noticed that the phrase, "ut Corpus et Sanguis fiant Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi," found in Eucharistic Prayer III of the Vatican's Latin Roman Missal was translated into English in The Sacramentary as "that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ," by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL).[30] In fact, ICEL consistently de-capitalized "Corpus" and "Sanguis" to "body" and "blood" throughout The Sacramentary.

It is also interesting to note that, on one hand, the Vatican Congregation consistently capitalizes "Blessed Sacrament (Ss. mum Sacramentum)," but not "book (liber)" in the phrase, "book of the Gospels (liber Evangeliorum)," of its original and of pit-no Latin Caeremoniale Episcoporum.[31] ICEL, on the other hand, consistently capitalizes "Book" in the phrase "Book of the Gospels" and consistently deletes the capitals of the term "blessed sacrament" in the Ceremonial of Bishops, their translation of the Caeremoniale.32 This is indeed strange since even a vulgar secular work, Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary, capitalizes "Blessed Sacrament" when it defines "Blessed Sacrament" as "Communion elements."[33] The same kind of de- emphasis of terms symbolizing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist through lower case language signification can be found when ICEL translates the term, "Corpus Christi," found in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum, to "body of Christ" in their Ceremonial of Bishops.[34]

While these de-capitalizations could be mere oversights by others, they could hardly be such by expert translators. In fact, the pre-Vatican II hand missals, some of which were published by the same publishing house as the present Sacramentary, translated "Corpus" and "Sanguis" with "Body" and "Blood."[35] ICEL, therefore, had to be aware of the capitalization of "Body" and "Blood" in previous English translations. However, what is most important is the fact that ICEL went out of their way to alter the original text of the Latin Caeremoniale Episcoporum to capitalize "Book of the Gospel." This clearly indicates that they did place at least some importance on upper and lower case language signification. So, from all of this, it seems that ICEL deliberately deleted the capitals from the words, "Blessed Sacrament" and "Body of Christ" in both The Sacramentary and the Ceremonial of Bishops, and that they subtly gave a greater importance to the Book of the Gospel than the Blessed Sacrament by means of capitalization and de-capitalization. The importance of these facts obviously does not lie in revealing the minor errors that ICEL has already made in translating the books of the Liturgy. Rather, the importance of these facts lies in hinting what major translating errors ICEL might make in the future regarding the relationship between the Book of the Gospel and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

While these de-capitalizations and capitalizations alone might not be too disturbing, it is alarming when one adds to this the recommendation of the American diocesan liturgists at their 1990 National Meeting of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC). The Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions' Newsletter states:

It is the position of the delegates to the 1990 National Meeting of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions that the BCL Task Force on American Adaptations of the Roman Missal provide for the assembly to stand throughout the Eucharistic Prayer in the revised Sacramentary for use in the United States.[36]

And it passed with 95% voting for it.[37]

The question is: what reason do these liturgists give for recommending that the congregation "stand throughout the Eucharistic Prayer?" The Newsletter does not say, but one suspects that it is the same reason mentioned by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. This Conference recommended "standing" in imitation of the early Christians who stood during the Liturgy on Sundays in honor of the Resurrection.[38] No doubt, they got this from the Council of Nicaea I (325) which stated:

Since there are some who are bending their knee on Sunday and on the days of Pentecost, the holy council has decided, so that there will be uniformity of practice in all things in every diocese, that prayers are to be directed to God in a standing position.[39]

But this statement of Nicaea (I) in the 4th century refers to kneeling in general throughout the entire Mass and not just kneeling in part of the Mass. P. F. Mulhern states: "Kneeling during religious services began as a penitential practice and at one time was not permitted on feast days."[40] The statement of Nicaea (I), therefore, is most likely a reference to those, like the 4th century "substrati," who, as members of the "ordo paenitentium, . . . remained inside (at the Eucharist) but were on their knees the whole time."[41] Thus, in order to show that the Resurrection was a victory over sin Nicaea (I) ruled that these penitential Christians should take a break in their penitential posture of kneeling throughout the entire Mass in prayer on weekdays, by generally praying in a standing position on Sundays.

So, this statement of Nicaea (I) is not a ruling on posture, especially kneeling, as an act of latria or adoration during the Consecration of the Eucharist. If some act or form of latria at the Consecration of the Eucharist had already developed during the first few centuries of the Church, this statement of Nicaea (I) would not have been taken as an order to do away with that act of latria at the moment of Consecration. It would have merely been understood as doing away with the general penitential posture (kneeling for the sake of penance) at other times during prayer and the Liturgy on Sundays. Most likely, it was only when the general act of kneeling for the sake of penance was eliminated during the Sunday and feast day Liturgies that the specific act of kneeling for the sake of adoration could be distinguished from kneeling for the sake of penance and come to the fore.

A poor recommendation

This recommendation "to stand throughout the Eucharistic Prayer" has many problems. First of all, standing throughout the entire Eucharistic Prayer without making any gesture of latria whatsoever would be a total exclusion of the act of latria (the visible act of adoration of Jesus Christ) from the Liturgy.

Secondly, this recommendation to "stand throughout the Eucharistic Prayer" clearly contradicts the official directives of the Church as found in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal and the Caeremoniale. Standing during the Consecration would therefore proclaim disunity with the universal Church at that very moment when we gather in the unity of the love of Christ. John Paul II has stated that "It is a very serious thing when division is introduced precisely where congregavit nos in unum Christi amor, in the Liturgy and the Eucharistic Sacrifice, by refusing obedience to the norms laid down in the liturgical sphere."[42]

Thirdly, this recommendation betrays a tendency to conclude that there was a falling away from the correct notion of liturgy after the early years of the Church. But James T. O'Connor says in The Hidden Manna: "Such a tendency, however, misses the riches that came to the Church from the development of Eucharistic devotion during the Middle Ages (e.g., St. Francis of Assisi,"[43]

John Henry Newman says about development of doctrine that this should be consistent or "logical."[44] In other words, as the Church grew more and more conscious of her treasure of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, the actions of the people developed accordingly: from standing (if they were not kneeling or prostrate) to kneeling during the Consecration. Instead the Canadian and the FDLC proposal presents the Liturgy and Eucharistic piety as inconsistent and dialectical, i.e., standing, kneeling, and back to standing during the Consecration. Now, if this FDLC combination (standing-kneeling-standing) were actually accepted by the Church, it would mean in the history of the Church that the development of "latria" toward the Eucharist was followed by the elimination of "latria" toward the Eucharist. This would not be doctrinal development but doctrinal "recession" and reversal.[45] It would be heteropraxis (practical heresy)!

So, this recommendation to stand during the entire Eucharistic Prayer denies development of (Eucharistic) doctrine through "worship" in "Sacred Tradition," particularly through the Eucharistic piety of the laity in the Liturgy.[46] Those developing this so-called Eucharistic Theology refuse to acknowledge "that the Tradition that comes from the Apostles makes progress in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit."[47]

Kneeling, as an act of latria, is also the greatest testimony to the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is in perfect harmony with standing during other times in prayer on Sundays to demonstrate the Church's victory over sin through the Resurrection. Fifth century St. Augustine stated that "It was in the flesh that Christ walked among us and it is His flesh that He has given us to eat for our salvation."[48] So, the Word was made flesh; the Word died in the flesh; the Word rose in the flesh; and the Word is before us on the altar of the flesh.

Now, an act of latria testifies to all four fundamental doctrines better than the act of standing. If our Eucharistic Lord is really and truly the Word in the flesh, then the Word must have risen from the dead in the flesh and previously become flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Once more, he will come again to raise us up in the flesh. Thus, immediately after the Consecration, the faithful respond in a joyful Eucharistic Acclamation to the priest's proclamation, "Mystery of Faith (Mysterium Fidei)"; "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."[49]

But, if our Eucharistic Lord is really not the Word in the flesh, then perhaps the Word did not become flesh and die and rise in the flesh. And perhaps he will not come again to raise us up in the flesh. So, to replace kneeling with standing during the Consecration will not only eliminate the best testimony to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, it will also eliminate the Church's testimony to the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and to our own future resurrection in the body.

Once more, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago recently stated that: "according to a Gallup poll only 30% of our faithful believe what the Church teaches on the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist."[50] So, if this poll is in any way accurate, it is also clearly illogical to de-emphasize the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist at the very time when doubt or knowledge of this Mystery among so-called Catholics is so tragically high (70%). Remember that "whoever eats the Bread or drinks the Cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the Body and Blood of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27). And for one to receive "without recognizing the Body" is to "eat and drink a judgment on himself" (1 Cor. 11:29). To totally exclude the official act of kneeling as adoration from the Liturgy (especially at the Consecration), when so many baptized Catholics have difficulty with this teaching, would make it easier for those who do not believe in the Real Presence to come to communion and "eat and drink a judgment" on themselves.

An ambiguous recommendation

Beside this poor recommendation to stand throughout the Eucharistic Prayer, the FDLC has also made an ambiguous recommendation. At their 1993 national meeting, the FDLC stated:

It is the position of the delegates of the 1993 National Meeting of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions that the movement fostering the practice of perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in parishes is a matter of significant and immediate concern; and the delegates further urge that the Board of Directors of the FDLC assist the BCL to encourage the Executive Committee of the NCCB to clarify with the appropriate Vatican Congregations or Secretariats the matter of Eucharistic adoration and Eucharistic exposition and communicate this clarification to the bishops of the United States as soon as possible and in an appropriate way.[51]

One gets the distinct impression that the words "significant and immediate concern" mean that the FDLC is somewhat unhappy or disturbed about the increase of perpetual exposition of the Eucharist in parishes throughout the United States. While the FDLC might be afraid of possible abuse of the Blessed Sacrament through neglect and that some parishes may be proceeding with perpetual exposition without Rome's permission, one hopes that their "immediate concern" is not due to the fact that there is a greater emphasis upon adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and an increase in Eucharistic devotion among the faithful.[52] If the latter is the case, then their "significant and immediate concern" should itself be "a matter of significant and immediate concern" for the Vatican, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and all Catholics in the United States.

Surely the FDLC knows that the Vatican has permitted prolonged exposition provided there is a sufficient number of people present for the exposition.[53] The Sacred Congregation of Rites has stated:

For any grave and general need, the local ordinary can order that there should be prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed over a long period, and which can be strictly continuous, in those churches where there are large numbers of the faithful.[54]

While this is not a blanket permission for "perpetual exposition" at parishes, the Vatican is clearly promoting frequent exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with a minimum of prolonged exposition and adoration "once a year" (i.e., Forty Hours).[55]

Actually the FDLC should be rejoicing over the increase in exposition and devotion to the Eucharist since the goal of the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical document, Sacrosanctum concilium, is being achieved.[56] For Paul VI stated in Mysterium Fidei, that the goal of the Second Vatican Council (Sacrosanctum concilium) was "that a new wave of Eucharistic devotion will sweep over the Church."[57] This seems to be happening in some quarters of the United States. One can only hope that it will also occur among the members of the FDLC and the ICEL.

Discouraging "latria" is perilous

One can also ask: what happens to the person himself who uses some form of directive, coercion, or discouragement to get people to eliminate an explicit act of adoring the Blessed Sacrament? This can be considered from two perspectives: from the perspective of interpersonal relationships and human. dignity; and from the perspective of the Catholic doctrine involved.

From the first perspective, this act on the part of these religious authorities and laity is insidious. When a person is coerced through directive or peer pressure to go against what he truly believes, his human dignity and integrity are violated. It is no wonder, then, that the Second Vatican Council labeled "undue psychological pressure" as "criminal" when it listed modern "violations of the integrity of the human person."[58] Similarly, John Paul II recalled this teaching of the Second Vatican Council when he stated in his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, that "attempts to coerce the spirit," are "intrinsically evil."[59]

From the perspective of the Catholic doctrine involved, discouraging Catholics from kneeling at the Consecration at Mass is extremely evil. It was mentioned earlier that St. Augustine said: "It was in the flesh that Christ walked among us and it is His flesh that He has given us to eat for our salvation." "But," he added: "no one eats of this flesh without having first adored it . . . and not only do we not sin in thus adoring it, but we would be sinning if we did not do so!"[60]

One must understand that the teaching regarding latria in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is no mere liturgical rubric or disciplinary law of the Church. It was the subject of a definition of an ecumenical council of the Church. The Council of Trent has affixed an "anathema" or condemnation to anyone who says that the Blessed Sacrament is not to be adored even outwardly with the worship of latria. The Council defined:

If anyone says that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist the only-begotten Son of God is not to be adored even outwardly with the worship of latria (the act of adoration), and therefore not to be venerated with a special festive celebration, nor to be borne about in procession according to the praiseworthy and universal rite and custom of the holy Church, or is not to be set before the people publicly to be adored, and that the adorers of it are idolaters; let him be anathema (cf. n. 878).[61]

Now, this does not mean that everyone who stands at the Consecration, or does not genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament, is condemned. However, once the universal Church has designated "kneeling" at the Consecration and "genuflection" before the Blessed Sacrament specifically as the official acts of "latria" to be given to the Eucharist at these specified times, it is then impossible for someone to discourage these acts at these times without also "saying" that the "Son of God is not to be adored outwardly with the worship of latria." Apparently, then, if a person deliberately, and with full knowledge, discourages kneeling at the Consecration or genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament, he or she is "anathema" (condemned)! Most likely, the same thing can be said about anyone who discourages exposition or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

There are those who will say that, by discouraging kneeling, genuflection, and Eucharistic exposition, they are not denying the doctrine of theory of Trent, just denying the use or the practice of it at a particular time and place. And, they just might be able to escape the official condemnation of the Church. But how will they do on the day of judgment when they meet the One Who said: "I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds" (Jer. 17:10). Out of charity one cannot help but fear for them!

To understand the seriousness of discouraging someone from outwardly adoring the Eucharist at the Consecration, one must realize that the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is the extremity of the "substantial" presence of Jesus Christ in the world. It is the extremity of the Incarnation, or Jesus Christ coming in the flesh.

Consequently, deliberately to exclude all acts of latria from the Eucharist, would be to refuse to acknowledge the Incarnation or Jesus Christ coming in the flesh. And, St. John says about "men who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh" that "such is the antichrist" (2 John 1:7) and his "spirit" is "already in the world" (1 John 4:3). These are the "weeds" which the enemy has sown among the "wheat" (Matt. 13:25). They make a "pretense" of being Christian by pretending to "belong to us," but soon they will leave and we will see that "none of them was ours" (1 John 2:18-19).[62]

This is certainly not to say that everyone who refuses to kneel at the Eucharistic Liturgy is an "antichrist." Still one should admit that refusing to give an act of latria, like kneeling, before the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic Liturgy out of embarrassment is certainly a type of being ashamed to acknowledge the presence of Jesus Christ in the midst of men. And about this, Jesus said:

I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men-the Son of Man will acknowledge him before the angels of God. But the man who has disowned me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of the angels Of God (Luke 12:8-9).

Obviously, today, belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is failing miserably among baptized Catholics (70%). It is urgent, therefore, that everyone, especially deacons, Eucharistic ministers, and altar servers kneel during the Consecration and at the "Lord, I am not worthy" in the Eucharistic Liturgy. It is especially urgent that deacons, ministers, and servers kneel because of their visibility to the congregation and their leading roles in the Liturgy. The People will follow their lead in kneeling. It is also important for pastors to encourage their people to make use of the "strongly recommended" genuflection prior to receiving communion, or to use the legitimate option of having the people kneel to receive the Sacrament. Then, those, who know the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, will be affirmed, and those who do not know will ask about the kneeling and genuflection and learn.

"Woe" to those people who prevent this "bending of the knee" at Mass and in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament! And, "woe to the Shepherds" who permit the act of latria to disappear from the Eucharistic Liturgy (Ezek. 34:1-16)!



1 Enchiridion Symbolorum (Denzinger), Nos. 874, 883, 30th edition in Denzinger: The Sources of Catholic Dogma, trans. by Roy J. Deferrari (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1957), pp. 266, 270; Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 46, in The Pope Speaks, 10 (Fourth Quarter 1964), 321.

2 Paul V, Mysterium Fidei, No. 46, p. 321.

3 St. Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, Ch. 3, No. 9, translated by Armand Maurer, C.S.B. (Toronto: The Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1968), p. 50.

4 Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 39, p. 319.

5 Congregation for Divine Worship, Augustine Mayer, O.S.B., Pro-Prefect, Caeremoniale Episcoporum (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, MCMLXXXV).

6 Congregation for Divine Worship, Augustine Mayer, O.S.B., Pro-Prefect, Ceremonial of Bishops, Preface, and No. 12, trans. by the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL), (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989), pp. 13, 20.

7 Ceremonial of Bishops, Preface, p. 13.

8 Ceremonial of Bishops No. 73, p. 37.

9 Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council General Instructions of the Roman Missal, No. 21, in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 1), edited by Austin Flannery, O.P. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1992), p. 167; also see Paul VI, The Sacramentary (The Roman Missal), English translation prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (New York: Catholic Bk. Pub. Co., 1974), p. 22. My parenthesis.

10 Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, General Instructions on the Roman Missal, No. 55(c), Vatican Council II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 1), p. 176; Eucharistic Prayer I says in its rubric directions: "With hands outstretched over the offerings, he says." Following this the priest says: "Bless and approve our offering: etc." See Daily Roman Missal, Edited by Reverend James Socias (Princeton, N. J.: Scepter Pub. Inc., 1993), 691.

11 Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 94, p. 41. My emphasis.

12 Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 155, p. 57. My emphasis.

13 Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 182, p. 64. My emphasis.

14 Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, General Instructions of the Missal, No. 21, Vatican Council II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, p. 167; The Sacramentary, No. 21, p. 22.

15 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Appendix to the General Instructions," No. 21, in The Sacramentary, p. 49.

16 Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Inaestimabile donum, No. 26, Vatican Council II: More Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 2), pp. 98- 99. My emphasis.

17 Ceremonial of Bishops, Nos. 68-72, p. 36-37. My parenthesis and partially my emphasis.

18 Regis Scanlon, "Eucharistic piety: A strong recommendation," Homiletic & Pastoral Review (August-September 1983), 55-59.

19 Sacred Congregation of Rites, Eucharisticum Mysterium, No. 34, Vatican Council II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Document (Vol. 1), p. 122; Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Inaestimabile donum, No. 11, Vatican Council II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 1), p. 96. My emphasis.

20 Regis Scanlon, p. 57.

21 Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 163, p. 59. My emphasis and my parenthesis.

22 St. Francis of Assisi, "Letter to all Superiors of the Friars Minor," in St. Francis of Assisi: Writings and Early Biographies (Omnibus), edited by Marion A. Habig (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1973), p. 113. My emphasis.

23 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), pp. 74-75. My emphasis.

24 Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 218; Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Forward, No. 2, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, p. 155; The Sacramentary, Introduction, No. 2.

25 Geoffrey Wainwright, p. 218.

26 Geoffrey Wainwright, p. 218.

27 Council of Trent, Enchiridion Symbolorum (Denzinger), No. 888, 30th edition, p. 271.

28 Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 141, p. 55.

29 Vatican II: Dei Verbum, No. 21, Vatican Council II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 1), p. 762.

30 Paul VI, The Sacramentary (The Roman Missal), pp. 552, 1066. My emphasis; Paul VI, Missale Romanum, Editio typica altera, (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, MCMLXXV), p. 461.

31 Caeremoniale Episcoporum, Nos. 69-70, p. 29, also compare Nos. 71, 74, 79, 87, 92, and 94.

32 Ceremonial of Bishops, Nos. 69-70, p. 36, also compare Nos. 71, 74, 79, 87, 92, and 94.

33 Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary, "Blessed Sacrament" (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1990), p. 159.

34 Caeremoniale Episcoporum, No. 163, p. 49 and Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 163, p. 59. My emphasis. Also compare Nos. 164 & 165 in each book for examples of the same decapitalization with regard to the "blood of the Lord."

35 Pius XII, Missale Romanum, (New York, N.Y.: Catholic Bk. Pub. Co., 1953), p. 565.

36 FDLC, "Posture During Eucharistic Prayer," Position Statement 1990 C 2.853, FDLC Newsletter (October 1990), 35.

37 Joseph J. Farraher, Homiletic & Pastoral Review (August-September, 1991), p. 83.

38 Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Bulletin on Liturgy, Vol. 24, No. 124 (March 1991), 59-60.

39 Council of Nicea 1, Can. 20, in The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1, translated and edited by William A. Jurgens (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1979), p. 286.

40 P. F. Mulhern, "Principles of Penance," New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, p. 73.

41 Lorenzo Cappelletti, "Regret or Forgiveness," 30 Days, No. 12, 1993, p. 69. My parenthesis and emphasis.

42 John Paul II, Consistorial address of May 24, 1976: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 68 (1976), p. 374. English translation found in Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship (Approved and Confirmed by John Paul II), Inaestimabile Donum, No. 27, April. 17, 1980, Vatican Council 11: More Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 2), edited by Austin Flannery, O. P. (Northport, New York: Costello Pub. Co., 1982), p. 100. Partially my emphasis.

43 James T. O'Connor, The Hidden Manna(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 188. My parenthesis.

44 John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1927), p. 195.

45 Vatican I, Enchiridion Symbolorum (Denzinger), No. 1800, 30th edition, p. 448.

46 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, No. 8, in Vatican II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 1), p. 754; Pius XII, Mediator Dei, Nov. 20, 1947, Nos. 132-133, in Mediator Dei (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, n.d.), pp. 53-54.

47 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, No. 8, Vatican Council II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 1), p. 754. My emphasis.

48 St. Augustine, On the Psalms, 98:9, in Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 55, p. 323.

49 Paul VI, The Sacramentary (The Roman Missal), "Eucharistic Prayer III," p. 553.

50 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, in Gianni Cardinale, "Clinton and Us," 30 Days, No. 12, 1992, p. 32.

51 Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, FDLC newsletter, "RIC 1993 D 2187 Introduction of Perpetual Exposition in Parishes" (Nov.-Dec. 1993), 52. My emphasis.

52 Sacred Congregation of Rites, Eucharisticum Mysterium, No. 61, 64, pp. 134-135.

53 Sacred Congregation of Rites, Eucharisticum Mysterium, No. 60, p. 133.

54 Sacred Congregation of Rites, Eucharisticum Mysterium, No. 64, 135.

55 Paul VI, The Rites of the Catholic Church (The Roman Ritual), Vol. I (New York: Pueblo Pub. Co., 1990), p. 672.

56 Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum concilium, Vatican Council II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 1), pp. 1-37.

57 Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 13, p. 312.

58 Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, No. 27, in Vatican Council II: Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Vol. 1), p. 928.

59 John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, No. 80, English translation, (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993), pp. 122-123.

60 St. Augustine, On the Psalms, 98:9, in Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei, No. 55, p. 323.

61 Enchiridion Symbolorum (Denzinger), No. 888, 30th edition, p. 271. My emphasis.

62 St. Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Bk. XX, Ch. 9 (New York, N.Y.: Penguin Bks., 1984), D. 917.

Reverend Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap., a native of Pittsburgh, PA, is a member of the Mid-America Province of the Capuchin Franciscan Order. After ordination to the priesthood in 1972, Fr. Regis received a master's degree in systematic theology from Washington Theological Union (D.C.). Since that time he has been involved in parish and retreat work, and has taught in high school. Now he is living in Denver, CO, and works in the chancery office of the Archdiocese.

This article appeared in the August/September 1994 issue of "The Homiletic & Pastoral Review," 86 Riverside Dr., New York, N.Y. 10024, 212-799-2600, $24.00 per year.

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