Catholic Calisthenics

Bulletin Letter, Ordinary Time Sunday 2C

One thing that tends to be rather noticeable to non-Catholic visitors at Mass is just how often we stand, sit, kneel, and stand. But this really should not be surprising to anyone who reads the Gospel carefully. Hearing of Jesus approaching, people frequently stand up and prepare themselves to meet the Lord. After healing the lame or the sick, Jesus often tells them to stand. It’s not surprising, then, that we stand at various parts of the Mass. We stand to greet the Lord who speaks and draws near to us through the words of His Gospel, through the prayers of His Church, and in the ministry of His deacons and priests.

One time that Jesus has the crowds sit is when He feeds them by multiplying the loaves and fish. But “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Besides the Gospel, God feeds us with the other words of Scripture, from the Old Testament, with Psalms, and from the rest of the New Testament. We sit during these first readings at Mass and during the homily to be receptive to the words that come from our heavenly Father. Even as He fed His people in the wilderness with bread from heaven, He still seeks to nourish and free us with His truth.

Those who draw closest to Jesus in the Gospel are frequently found kneeling before Him, begging forgiveness and healing, giving thanks to Him with grateful hearts, and worshipping Him as their Lord and God. We kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer and during Holy Communion when Jesus draws closest, in the very substance of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Not everyone has full use of all their joints, so it’s not always possible for everyone to adopt the same posture at Mass. More important than an external uniformity is that we are united in the internal dispositions of gratitude, adoration, and openness to God. When receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion, we may do so while standing or kneeling.

People often ask about what posture we should adopt after receiving Communion. During the period of silence, the Missal says that we may sit or kneel, but a posture is not specified for the post-Communion hymn. I have taken to remain standing to sing, since this is the usual posture for singing hymns in other parts of the liturgy, and because we will soon be standing for the closing prayer and blessing anyway. If the choir alone is singing something, I’m more likely to sit, but Rome gave a ruling back in 2003 that the mind of the Church in these instructions “is intended, on the one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.” So be free. You may sit or kneel after Communion, or even stand for the hymn, as there shouldn’t be much concern for blocking anyone’s view at that point.

As spiritual and physical beings, our posture can be a helpful reminder to focus and offer even our bodies in worship of God. “Stand and raise your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).

One thought on “Catholic Calisthenics

  1. “to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.” So be free. You may sit or kneel after Communion, or even stand for the hymn, as there shouldn’t be much concern for blocking anyone’s view at that point.”

    Amen.

    Like

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