Friday, September 20, 2002

HMS Blog is having a slugfest over the genuflecting before receiving Communion issue. What do I prefer? I prefer to kneel at the altar rail to receive Communion. That's my favorite act of reverence and one that has centuries of history behind it. When I have to queue, I prefer the profound bow because a) it is recommended and b) it doesn't call undue attention to myself, whose otherwise lack of obvious piety might be a scandal to others.

A story, I once made the mistake in a Roman parish of crossing my hands across my breast to receive Communion. This is the traditional act of reverence for Eastern Catholics (and a gesture I really like) Apparently, though, in the West this gesture means "I'm not going to receive, just give me a blessing," so the priest tried to give me a blessing and I had to tell him, "I'm receiving." It was a little embarrassing.

Probably what turned me off to kneeling to receive in a situation when most others stand was a woman I knew when I was volunteering in Appalachia in the early 1980s. She was a very ostentatiously devout middle-aged woman who was always trying to convert us recent college grad volunteers to her brand of piety. She wore a rosary around her neck, wore a veil to go to Mass, recited all 15 decades of the Rosary daily, etc. She changed her name to reflect her Marian devotion (I won't tell you her name, but it was different than the one she was baptized with). She also knelt to receive Communion when the rest of us (often admittedly lacking in devotion and piety) young people would walk up as we had done in our parishes at home. Well, I just couldn't warm to her zealotry. It seemed to be all about her and her spiritual superiority and not about Christ and His love for us inept spiritual schleps. What did I think of her at the time? I thought she was a flake. Why did I think that? Because, she was a flake.

Now, before you get all bent out of shape, I am not saying that people who genuflect or kneel are flakes. As a matter of fact, I agree with Greg Popcak that if they were to recommend or mandate it, I'd be the first to comply. It REALLY seems like a good idea to me. I just think that people who are unnecessarily ostentatious about their own piety distract others from what they should be focusing on.

Decorum may not be the highest liturgical value, but it is a liturgical value.

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