Could you please tell me if there is a specific point in the Mass at which we are required to kneel? I see people doing different things and I am confused about it.
Thank you for your letter. It shows that you have a sincere concern about the proper way to adore the Lord in the Sacred Liturgy. Until recently, the Catholic faithful were only required to kneel at the Consecration, but with the adaptations to the 2000 edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, we now have new liturgical norms that require kneeling after the Agnus Dei (or Lamb of God).
Here is what one of those adaptations says: “In the dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration. The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise (GIRM, no. 43).
The General Instruction states that the Mass “proclaims the sublime mystery of the Lord’s real presence under the Eucharistic elements” and that “the Mass does this not only by means of the very words of consecration, by which Christ becomes truly present through transubstantiation, but also by the spirit and expression of reverence and adoration in which the Eucharistic liturgy is carried out.” (GIRM, no. 3) What this means is that we, as a worshipping people, at least in part express our belief that Jesus is present by our action and posture during this point in the liturgy.
Canon law tells us that the faithful are to hold the Eucharist in highest honor, taking part in the celebration of the “most august Sacrifice” and we are to worship it with “supreme adoration.” (canon 898) From earliest times, kneeling has always been an act of adoration. In the Garden of Gethsemane, even Jesus knelt down to pray to the Father (Luke 22:41). There are many other references of people kneeling before God in the Scriptures (See Acts 9:40, 20:36, 21:5).
There are some circumstances that would make kneeling very difficult. For example, when Mass is celebrated in a very crowded place or outdoors or in a stadium. In these situations, however, you will still see some people who will wish to kneel, even on the bare floor. In doing so, they are trying to display their supreme adoration of Our Lord and to take full part in this most sacred moment of the liturgy. We should keep in mind, of course, that all forms of adoration are seen and accepted by God, and He blesses every action of ours when our hearts are filled with love.
Grace MacKinnon is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine and teaches in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Her new book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith is available in our online store. If you enjoy reading Grace’s column, you will certainly want to have this book, which is a collection of the first two years of “Dear Grace.” Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit her online at www.DearGrace.com.