Thursday, January 04, 2007

More liturgical rants...genuflecting before receiving Holy Communion is a sin

Recently there was a controversy in my parish regarding the practice of genuflecting before receiving the Blessed Sacrament between the priest and the altar servers. The priest has, on various occasions, both in public and in private, called this practice a sin.

I’ve remained silent on this for a while now and I’ve taken lots of crap because of this. When I teach that Jesus Christ, Our Lord is present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament and that the worship and adoration of latria is due to Him and the priest comes out and says genuflection before Our Lord is a sin, I have a problem with that.

When it happens in Orange and Bishop Tod Brown makes a ruckus about kneeling, it all seems so far away. When it happens in your parish, it really hits home.

Here are some of the reasons that I’ve heard that are being used against this practice.

It’s a sin because it’s distracting to people. – This is a load of crap and the pinnacle of hypocrisy. This is the same priest who does around telling people that it’s ok to wear skimpy outfits in Church and that the people who have a problem with that should change themselves rather than ask these folks to put on something decent has himself now engaged in calling for the cessation of genuflecting before Our Lord because it’s distracting to people and it’s a sin. Perhaps the good Father would care to change himself and his perception of what does and does not constitute a distraction. This is the same priest who tells everyone that he has been out walking on the promenade during New Year’s Eve with a woman (not that I think that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with that) and does not give a hoot about what other people think because in his conscience, he’s clear before God. This is the same priest who does not understand that those who are little in the Faith and might not understand that it’s ok for a priest to be walking about with a woman on New Year’s Eve and whose Faith might be harmed because of it. And now he goes around telling folks that genuflecting before receiving Holy Communion is distracting, a sin, and asking people to violate their own conscience by not genuflecting. Is this not hypocrisy of the highest order?

It takes up too much time. – More rubbish. This same fellow has turned the invitation to pray the Lord’s Prayer into a mini-homily, making the people stand while he pontificates from on high, and is now telling us that genuflection while another person receives Holy Communion before one receives in turn is a waste of time. Regardless of how theologically unsound one is when one thinks that adoring the Lord Jesus is a waste of time, this objection does not hold water for a number of reasons. Firstly, only one server receives from any one priest or EXTRA(not!)-ordinary minister of Holy Communion and therefore the time lapse is minimal, especially when other ministers are not done yet. Technically, only the one who is in the critical path or who receives from the last minister is causing any delay at all. Secondly, this is a far better ‘waste of time’ than those longish meaningless and totally inappropriate responses to the prayers of the faithful, not to mention the time taken up by the homily and the mini-homily.

Now, we genuflect. If we permit this, then what happens when people start lying down on the floor or rolling around? Is that ok? – In terms of rubbish, this one takes the cake. Makes one think about what they actually teach at the seminary to have people come out and make these kinds of statements. Genuflection is a part of the tradition of the Latin Rite and is the customary sign of reverence before the Blessed Sacrament. Rolling around is not. Should people start prostrating on the ground as a sign of reverence before Christ, then well talk to them and find out their reasons. Personally, I’m not too concerned about how much reverence one shows towards the Blessed Sacrament, I’m more concerned about the lack of it and the total indifference I see and the total ambivalence that people display towards Christ present there. If I’m a priest, that’s what I’d be concerned about too rather than whether or not servers genuflect before receiving Holy Communion.

BTW, this priest, like the majority of priests in Malaysia and the liturgist of this diocese, does not genuflect after the Consecration and before the Agnus Dei. He makes a slight bow, in direct violation of the rubrics. I’m not sure why these folks have such an aversion to humbling themselves before the Lord. He also pours and throws the Consecrated Host around from the main Ciborium into smaller vessels (instead of consecrating them inside the smaller vessels as I suggested and is the practice in other dioceses I’m familiar with) resulting in the hosts falling all over the altar and sometimes even the floor. This is a real spectacle that I think I’m going to video and post sometime.

People always think that having fuzzy theologies make no actual difference, but to me, doxa affects praxis. The story is told of a Catholic who was leading his Protestant friend in a tour of his parish Church. As he led the friend up the aisle, he pointed out the Tabernacle and explained that Catholics believe that Christ is present, Really present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in there. The Protestant exclaimed: “Really! Why, if I believed in such a thing, I should be crawling down this aisle on my hands and knees!” It is becoming clearer that many Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Part of this disbelief stems from the way we have been praying. Lex orandi lex credendi. The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief. But more than that, it’s also stems from the way in which we are behaving. Do we really believe that Jesus, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, Eternal Word and Eternal God is really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine? Do we really? And if we do really really REALLY and I mean really believe in such a thing, how are we displaying and acting out our belief in our actions?



Anonymous said...

This is awful! I really sympathise with you, Andrew.

I can't believe this person says genuflexion is sinful. Sin is something which causes separate from God. How on earth does genuflexion do this!?

Anonymous said...

Priests like this probably received very poor formation in the seminary. A sign of reverence before the reception of communion is recommended. Does your diocese recommend any particular sign? If so you probably have to go with what the bishop says.

When something similar came up in my parish in Australia I rang the archdiocesean office and was told that Australia didn't recommend any particular sign therefore it was up to the person to determine what they did. In my parish most do nothing, some bow and a few genuflect. The only problem with genuflecting is when someone 'trips'. I always tell my son to step aside from the line when he genuflects so that no one can 'trip' over his feet as father suggested might happen.

As always with matters like this ask the priest to show you the official document to support his position.

Good luck.

Kevin said...

You should find your bishop, Andrew. I've never heard of this kind of thing before.

I visited Malaysia last month, after Christmas. I came up from Singapore and visited Malacca and KL for two days. Yours is a beautiful country.

Andrew said...

Thanks Mark. I find it rather mind boggling as well. But I guess if our priests also do not genuflect during the prescribed times during the Mass, they are not going to favour others doing this.

Kevin, thanks for dropping by. The local bishop here defers to the diocesan liturgist, who happens to be my former parish priest. I'm in the process of drafting a dubium so hopefully a response in the negative will put the matter to rest.

The Liturgist locuta est, causa finita est?
Hopefully this matter does not end up in the same way as the original controversy that prompted St. Augustine's famous saying.

Sharon, you hit that nail right on the head. The seminary training does seem to be wanting if such fuzziness in something so fundamental can still exist.

In our dioceses, there is no specific sign of reverence mandated, so, as you observed, most do nothing, some bow and very very few genuflect.

In this particular case, the problem of tripping someone does not arise because the servers receive last of all so there's no one to trip =)

Thanks for the concern, all.
Hopefully this matter will be resolved in an amicable manner as, in true Asian and Catholic fashion, we respect the authority of our priests and give them the benefit of the doubt whenever possible and are very averse to confrontation.

Anonymous said...

God Bless you,Andrew, in your efforts to retain reverence for Our Divine Saviour, truly present, Body Soul and Divinity, in the Sacred Host. Your problem would be resolved by kneeling to receive Our Lord on the tongue, as any catholic is entitled to do. And as catholics from the year dot have done so. And then get them to replace the Altar rails whose removal was never authorized by any known Church document.
A very Happy and Blessed New year!
regards, Ken

PBXVI said...

I pratically always genuflect before Communion, and in the five years I've been doing that, I have had NO problems with "tripping" anyone. This is sad, Andrew that your priest has said this. I suggest writing him and explaining why you think genuflecting is fine, and ask him why he thinks it's a sin. We have already lost enough reverance for our Lord by taking out Communion Rails and receiving Communion in the hand. I'll say a prayer for you and your parish/priest. God Bless!

Andrew said...

Aha! I knew is was coming but I did not expect it to happen so soon in my blogging career.

Thank you, Your Holiness PBXVI, for dropping by and for your comments =)

I agree exactly. I've been preaching Communion on the tongue only for all who would hear also.
But our Cathedral did for some time display a message that Holy Communion was to be in the hand only. Thankfully, a new administrator has put an end to that.

The practice of genuflecting promotes reverence towards Our Lord and fosters belief in the Real Presence. We should act the way we believe.

That's why we have started the servers out with this practice so that it would catch on.

We started them out with the beating of the breast during the Confiteor and it has caught on, slightly. But thats better than the great big zero before =)

We also started them out on the bow during the et incarnatus est and that is starting to catch on a little too.

So, perhaps this practice would propagate as well.

Most of the servers are receptive to doing this and God knows it's not easy doing something like this and calling attention to yourself, especially for a young boy. But once explained, they warmed up to it.

But Father's comments had caused much confusion and hurt, and that's why is was so important that this issue be addressed firmly.

Thanks again for commenting and do continue to drop by.