Sunday, October 31, 2010


I promised you a continuation of my response to the Email about the pope’s requirement that people should kneel and take communion on the tongue when he presides at the Holy Mass.  I am going to tell you what I carry in my heart about this posture.  So, here's part 2

First, it is the posture of dignity.  It is the part of our prayer that thanks God for the cooperative responsibility that He gave us right from the first pages of the Bible.  Do we remember that we have been given dominion over His creation?  Do we remember that He commanded us to never take the life of another human being? Do we remember that He entrusted His very own Son to the procreative process of one of us?  Do we remember  that He entrusted our ability to communicate His divinity and love of us through our human effort, written and oral?  (The Prophets; The Bible; The Apostles; The Saints of the Church)  Do we remember that He entrusted us with His community of chosen people, the Church? 

Second, it is the posture of readiness.  It is the part of our prayer that shows us ready to act according to His orders.  To Noah He says, “Build me an ark.”  To Abraham He says, “Offer Isaac, your son, to me in sacrifice.” To Moses He says, “Take my people to the land of Milk and Honey.”  To Samuel He says, “Go to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse and find Me a king.”  Need I say more?  Maybe I should remind you that Jesus didn’t ask anyone to kneel and pray.  He asked a lot more than that…”Sell all you have to the poor and follow me; Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the prisoners, etc.”  It is significant that the Jewish people do not kneel to pray.  They stand, ready to move in case they be invited by the Heavenly Father to do something for Him.  Shouldn’t we, the Chosen People of the New and Everlasting Covenant do the same in the dynamic presence of the very one who invites us to follow Him every moment of every day?

Third, it is the posture of presence.  It is the part of our reverent prayer of adoration.  What greater praise can we offer to Jesus than to show up?  What better behavior can we practice than to walk with God?  Think of the great blessing of walking with God, close, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand in His divine company.   We all know that we can’t walk while sitting or kneeling, so Enoch “walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him.  (Genesis, 5;6)
How can we do better than to imitate Isaiah standing in the Temple before the Holy of Holies and telling God, “Here I am.  Send me.” (Isaiah, chapter 6)  Read the sixth chapter of John and see what it means to be with Jesus during the most challenging moments of life.  Listen to Him saying that if we don’t eat His flesh and drink His blood we will not have eternal life.  Many there are who can’t stand in the presence of this awesome commandment.  We can! We do! At communion we are present to Him as He is present to us.  Stand up and be counted while the weak walk away.  This is not the time to be meek and humble.  This is the time of strength and backbone.  When He asks us, “Do you want to leave too?” We don’t back down, we stand there and fearlessly state, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."  (John, 6:68-69)
Finally, how much more present can we be than Mama Mary standing at the foot of the  Cross, participating in the Sacrifice of her Son for all of us.  Shouldn’t we be standing there too?

Fourth, it is the posture of resurrection. This is the part of our prayer of humbling hope as we stand in the breathtaking aura of the living, resurrected Christ.  There is no room for despair in our Catholic life.  There is only hope in the by the side of the Son of God. As we accept His challenge to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, there is only room for driving hope.  The Greek word for resurrection is an interesting one.  It is Anastasia and its literal meaning is “stand again.”  Just as Jesus stood again, so do we when we follow Him and celebrate His total sacrifice which brought us our salvation.  Most Catholics participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass once per week.  It is therefore essential for the faithful of the Catholic community to celebrate the resurrection by “standing again” with Jesus, our Lord and Savior on Sunday.  (Time for an unnecessary bit of trivial, but historically factual, information: The council of Nicaea [325 AD] forbade kneeling in Sunday liturgy because kneeling was the posture of penitents and Sunday is the day of the Resurrection.  So, to celebrate the glory of the Resurrection, standing was for everyone.  The penitents remained outside.)  It is therefore especially appropriate to stand as we celebrate the Resurrection at the moment when we approach the sacred table of the new and eternal covenant.

Fifth, it is the posture of faith.  This is the part of our prayer where we express the depth of our belief in God.  We stand for the sign of the Cross, we stand for the Kyrie, we stand for the Gloria, we stand for the CREED, we stand for the Our Father and we stand for our personal encounter with the living Body and Blood of Christ.  This is our personal proclamation of our relationship with Christ. This is our place at the foot of the Cross and around the altar of Sacrifice.  This is our confession of unity with the Communion of Saints. 

This is who we are as Catholics.  This defines us. If we can stand proudly around the altar, we can stand proudly in the world.  If we can stand proudly at the foot of the Cross, we will have no fear of the street missionaries who knock on our door.  When they come they will find someone strong in the faith, strong in discipleship and unwilling to be swayed away from our beloved Church.  Standing at Communion is a brave participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Good News Sacramental Banquet that it contains. 

One final note for your information.  Our brothers and sisters in the faith and the apostolic succession, the Orthodox Communions, do not kneel to pray.  They have other gestures and postures of reverence.  Remember, they've been around as long as we have.  Also, they know St. Paul as well or better than we do.

Now that I have gorged you with all these thoughts about a subject that you never thought could so spiritually important, I just know that you are waiting for me to say something about the posture of kneeling.  Believe me, I have plenty to say about that too.  That will be part three of this teaching.  In the introduction to part three, “Fall on your Knees”, I will make some tough remarks about the two biblical quotes that the sender of the original email included in the presentation.  When I am done with this, there won’t be a single one of you who will have the slightest inclination to cry at my funeral.

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