Monday, June 13, 2011

Dan Reads the Catechism: Paragraph 103 and the Kneeling Argument

I remember having a huge argument once in the Faith and Leadership House. Actually, the argument was between the house and one of our directors over whether we should kneel at Mass. It was a pretty infamous incident for us and one that (still) stretches me on whether we were truly submitted to authority in Catholic fashion.

The authority in question was a professor at the University who asked us why we knelt during or near the consecration at Mass, and while we weren't all this vehement about it, she and one of the more staunch Catholics in our house got into a fairly intense debate about it. At one point, when she mentioned Christ being present in the reading Scriptures (the implication being, so far as I took it, we should kneel then).

Now the counterargument offered, and if I recall correctly it was at the time, was that there was a qualitative difference in these presences. (The authority this person exercised, by the way, was that of an official faculty director of our program, and the extended question was whether the instructions to Catholics in our area indicated we should kneel at the consecration or not. My question as to authority was whether we ought to have obeyed her recommendation despite believing we were right; what would Jesus do?)

But paragraph 103 says "For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body" (source).

Now intuitively, going on history, it seems like the Real Presence in the Eucharist is a qualitatively different presence from Christ's presence in the reading of the written Word of God . After all, I don't recall any Early Church Fathers ever saying that the letters of Paul were "the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again" (source).

But paragraph 103 itself gives...little, if any, indication of such a difference. Perhaps some later paragraph (on the Eucharist, perhaps?) will clarify this for me. In the meantime I continue to be struck a tad confused by the lack of distinction drawn here. And it seems like the professor in question may have had, at the least, more intuition behind her thought than we wanted to grant at the time.

There's something about paragraph 82 that bugs me, too. I don't disagree with the paragraph. But it brought something to light that begs further investigation. More on that later.


M.A. Schmitz said...

Sacrosanctum Concilium 7 is clear on the issue, speaking of the manifold presence of Christ in the liturgy. I'm sure the Catechism addresses this.

The statement in 103 is more about, I think, making a strong statement about how much we venerate the Scriptures, rather than making an equivalence.

Secondly, the argument that we should have the same posture at the Gospel as at the Eucharistic prayer has a few problems.

Most importantly, the comparison between posture at the Gospel and at the Eucharistic prayer is not sound. The implied false premise is that reverencing Christ is the only thing being done in each situation. While the standing and kneeling function as postures of respect and reverence for the presence of Christ, what is taking place during each is very different. In the reading of the Gospel, we are listening attentively. In the Eucharistic prayer, we are praying.

To demand that we go back to standing based on the pristine norm of the early Church is an archaeologization which fails to take into account the cultural context of Western/Roman worship, which sees kneeling as most fitting for this moment in the Mass. When other postures are imposed, violence is done to the symbol system/religious culture of the people which causes anger, resentment, etc (this sort of violence is what I think is mostly responsible for giving birth to the traditionalist movement). This is a lesson we should have ingrained after all the cultural violence which we have done which has hindered the spread of the gospel (like in China). Its like going to Africa and telling people not to dance.

One also has to look at intentions. Communion in the hand, for example, is a legitimate form of receiving communion and has a long and proven history. However, if the reason one wants to receive communion in the hand as opposed to the tongue is because they don't want to be fed, or feel that it is servile, this is obviously wrong- because we are being fed- and to desire otherwise is pride.

Why do people want to stand? Is it a reaction against kneeling? Is it an ideological statement about the relationship of the believing assembly to the presiding minister? Or are they Patristic Age idealists, who desire to return to the pristine norm of the Fathers?

Anonymous said...

I should also add that sometimes folks use the practices of the patristic age to justify something they do now, or want to do now, but which has very different meaning than it had in the patristic age/early Church. Which is funny, considering the liberal theological insistence on shifting meaning in doctrine and needing to change our expressions of it in order to safeguard the original meaning.

-Mike (it's not letting me log in because work uses IE7 with lots of various issues)

Dan Lower / KKairos said... had some of the instruction we were debating over as well; the instructions said that the faithful should kneel in general and advised Catechesis about a "profound bow" in places where kneelers had not yet been installed.

Tragically, at least as of 2003 such a norm is if anything exclusive to the Archdiocese of Portland. Even on the ArchPDX website the GIRM adapted for is from 2000 and the 2003 GIRM from the Bishops doesn't even mention the exception.

I wouldn't be surprised if that had come up at the time, albeit way too late to be helpful in the discussion.

Dan Lower / KKairos said...

Oh! USCCB GIRM link:

Basically, I'm now pretty established that I'll be kneeling everywhere in the Archdiocese of Portland, regardless of kneelerless-ness, barring a muddy outdoor Mass or sudden onset broken legs.

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