So we’ve finally made it through the door. Now it’s time to have a seat, right?
Wait, not so fast. Not before we start you on the Catholic Calisthenics program.
You think I’m kidding, but if you’ve been to a Mass then you know we use just about every part of body to worship. Some Protestants don’t know what to with us. And most don’t know what to do when they’re with us.
We Catholics can’t seem to sit still; we kneel, stand, sit, make the sign of the cross, genuflect, and bow several times in the span of one hour. And it begins before you even get in your pew.
Why you ask?
It’s a lot like the idea I mentioned before: We’re a sensing people and God reaches and teaches us through our senses and not just our spirit.
Not only does God reach us this way but we reach out to Him in this way too. We have bodies. Bodies that are temples of the Holy Spirit. Bodies created to worship and glorify God. As Catholics we do this during Mass by kneeling, standing, sitting, bowing, and genuflecting.
You see, the liturgy is literally “the work of the people.” The entire Mass is our worship. We differ from some “contemporary” churches in that we don’t sing a few songs and then sit down to listen to one person speak. We are called to worship throughout the Mass as we participate in the prayers, the music, the reading of the Word and Communion. We do this not just internally with our hearts and minds but with our bodies as well.
Our participation starts with genuflecting before we sit in our pew of choice.
Why do we genuflect?
The simple but not so simple answer:
Catholics believe the consecrated bread is the Body of Christ (Read the Book of John Chapter 6). We call the consecrated bread the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist, Jesus. And in every Catholic Church Christ’s Body in this Blessed Sacrament is kept in the tabernacle of the Church.
That means we believe that Christ is present in a tangible and real way. His presence in the Eucharist is different than the presence of Christ we each carry in us because of the Holy Spirit. Just like our experience of Christ’s presence in heaven is different than our experience of Him while we live on earth. Because we believe in Christ’s real presence in the Blessed Sacrament, when we enter and exit our pews or pass the tabernacle we genuflect out of respect and love for Him.
That’s the simple answer. What’s not so simple for some Protestants who might read this is our belief that the consecrated bread and wine actually are Christ’s body and blood. And, I certainly understand why.
I’ll go into the Biblical and historical reasons for this belief when we talk about the Liturgy of the Eucharist. For now let me say this…
Some may think this believe is far-fetched and ridiculous and scoff at the idea that Jesus would make himself truly present to us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the substance of bread and wine.
Others may think that God would have no reason to lower himself in such a way. We have no need for such a silly belief in the divine becoming tangible for us humans.
You might be one who looks at the bread and wine and thinks Catholics are crazy for believing this. Afterall, the bread looks like bread. And, the wine looks like wine. It doesn’t look like flesh and blood right?
If you find yourself scoffing at this belief, consider this…
There were (and still are many) who thought it was ridiculous to believe that Jesus was indeed God incarnate. They couldn’t conceive that God would lower himself and come to us in human flesh.
There were plenty of people who mocked the disciples for believing He was the Messiah, the Son of God. Afterall, he didn’t look like God, he looked like a man. How could he or anyone else claim that he was divine, holy, the God of the universe. An impossible, ridiculous, crazy belief right?
Just something to think about.
Ok, back to the Mass.
Once we genuflect, out of love and respect for Jesus and His real presence, we sit down. But, not for long because then we kneel in prayer to prepare our hearts for the Mass. During this time it is common for Catholics to examine their hearts and confess to God any obstacles and sins that have kept them from walking in His love and grace.
After we kneel and pray we stand for the processional and opening prayer, which starts of course with the sign of the cross. Once again we’re reminded we our children of God, His family, gathered to worship Him.
And now finally, the Mass has begun…
… in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.