Reverence: Genuflection and Bowing



We genuflect before entering the pew. Yes, that is the word for it. Whereas kneeling is done with two knees, genuflection is “made by bending the right knee to the ground.” In army we call it ‘high-kneeling’; in the gym, we call it a ‘forward lunge’. The Church, as always, will not deign to use such plebeian vocabulary; she has her own lexicon.

After all, form must follow substance. Holy words must describe holy acts, holy acts must honour holy objects. A genuflection, “[signifying] adoration, is therefore reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross in the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.” As such, we also genuflect when we enter the church and/or before we enter the pews to revere the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle at the front of the church.

Similarly, a bow “signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them.” There are two kinds of bows. We bow our head when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated. Alternatively, we bow our body (i.e. a profound bow) at inter alia the words of the Creed “and by the Holy Spirit… and became man.”


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