After the homily at each of the Sunday Masses for the last few weeks, the priests at St. Anne’s have been giving short talks about the different parts of the new translation of the Mass to help the faithful not only understand some of the new wording, but also to help them grasp a deeper reverence for the Mass. This morning, Fr. Signalness talked not about the translation, but about the postures at Mass, and I was very glad that he did.
St. Anne’s is one of those parishes that has placed the tabernacle off to the side of the church rather than behind the altar. I assume that this is actually pretty common and may be the norm in the United States. In any event, is very obvious when parishioners arrive for Mass that they don’t understand what a genuflection really means because most do not genuflect towards the tabernacle where the Flesh and Blood and Bone and Muscle of our Lord and God are reserved. They almost always genuflect towards the altar or to the crucifix. It really bothers me because it generally is a symptom that people don’t understand what the Church teaches about the Holy Eucharist. So I was very very happy when Fr. Signalness talked about how to correctly genuflect as well as to what, or rather, to whom, we genuflect. He also spoke of the significance and meaning of kneeling, sitting, standing, and bowing in the different parts of the Mass. In addition he made a few comments about holding hands during the Our Father as well as who should assume the orans posture during the Mass (the priest) and who should not (the laypeople) as spelled out in the rubrics of the Mass.
One of the really important messages that I took away, though, was this: unlike our private devotions that we do at home and elsewhere, the Mass is the public worship of the Church where we come together as a unity of Persons in Christ and it is the Church who dictates the form of worship. We, as the faithful gathered in Mass must be obedient to how the Church tells us to worship in that setting. When she says to genuflect, we genuflect. When she says to stand, we stand. Worshiping together in body and spirit, we proclaim the unity of the Body of Christ, of the Holy Trinity. In whatever posture we pray in our private devotions is our choice, but in the public devotion of the Mass, we simply are not granted that freedom.