A Strong Recommendation
by Father Regis Scanlon, O.F.M.
Doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the
Eucharist is one of those Wonderful Truths by which Christianity shines-forth as a Religion of
Mysteries, far exceeding the Capacity of the Human Mind. The Catholic Church has defined the
Dogma of the Real Presence by stating that Jesus Christ
is Present, Whole and Entire, under the Appearances-of Bread and Wine, following the Words of Consecration
at the Eucharist.
Sacred Dogma of the Catholic Faith accounts for the Tremendous
Reverence and Solemnity which has Traditionally accompanied the Celebration of the Eucharist, Reception of
Holy Communion, and Benediction of the
Most Blessed Sacrament. One has only to recall the Ringing of the Bells, the Kneeling and Incense in the Presence of the
Eucharistic Lord, along with the Meditative and Reverential Silence, which pervaded most Catholic Churches
and Chapels. These Symbols, Communicated in a Practical Manner, even to the Unschooled and to Children, what words often failed to make clear to Students
of Sacred Studies.
A Piety Void has set in.
Today, the Toning-down, and in some cases the Deletion, of these Symbols and Signs of Adoration and Reverence regarding the
Eucharist, has resulted in a Piety Void in the Life of a
Number of Catholics. This Lessening
or Absence of Concrete Symbols of Adoration, is no doubt also Retarding the Transmission of the
Dogma of the Real Presence among Catholics. In places where these Concrete
Symbols have been
Diminished, the Church has been left with merely a Theoretical Approach to Teaching the
Doctrine of the Real Presence. Tremendous
Mysteries are Difficult to Communicate, even to the Scholarly, by-means-of Precise Terminology, and nearly impossible to the Theologically
Uneducated, and Children.
Recovery from this Piety Void, and from Youth's Doctrinal Haziness about the
Real Presence, will hopefully come about with the Full and Complete Implementation of the
Eucharistic Doctrine of the 'Second Vatican Council'. One document, issued on May 25, 1967, by the
'Sacred Congregation of Rites', which was intended to Implement the Conciliar Decree on the Liturgy and Worship of the
Eucharist, is Eucharisticum Mysterium. In this document
is found a recommendation which has since been repeated on April 3, 1980, in
Inaestimabile Donum, a Document by the 'Sacred Congregation for Sacraments
and Divine Worship', the publication of which was ordered by John Paul II himself. The recommendation is:
"When the Faithful Communicate Kneeling, no other Sign of Reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is required, since Kneeling
is itself a Sign of Adoration".
"When they receive Communion Standing, it is Strongly Recommended that, coming up in Procession, they should make a Sign of
Reverence before Receiving the Blessed Sacrament. This should be done at the Right Time and Place, so that the Order of People going to and from
Communion should not be disrupted".
The Act-of Reverence strongly-recommended by the Sacred Congregations here, appears to be more than a
mere Reverential Act toward Holy Things, like Bowing the Head, Folding-of the Hands, or the Sign-of the
Cross. It seems most likely that what is being recommended here is the Traditional Form of
Worship or Adoration called Latria,
reserved to God alone. In the Latin Rite, the Traditional Act-of Latria is the
Genuflection, and similar to it is the Profound Bow-of the Eastern Rites. That the Congregations are recommending a Genuflection, can be argued from the
Context-of the Recommendation, which has previously referred to Kneeling as a Sign-of Adoration, and from
the Caution that this Act-of Reverence not be done out-of-place or at-the-wrong-time, to Interfere-with the
Free Flow of Communicants, which Caution would be Meaningless, if a simple Bow-of the Head, Folding-of the Hands, or Sign-of the
Cross were meant.
A More Immediate Act is Desired
The Interpretation of this Strong Recommendation as a Request for a Genuflection, prior to the Reception of Holy
Communion, would also receive support from both Sacred Tradition and
Holy Scripture. The Fifth-Century Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine, clearly
expressed the Necessity of making an Act-of Adoration prior to the Reception of the
Eucharist, when he stated:
While it is True that the Communal Act of Worship at the "Lord, I am not Worthy" minimally fulfills this Act of Faith,
there is such a Great Lapse between this Act and the Individual Reception of the Eucharist, due to the Number of Communicants, that an Individual Act
of Adoration, more Personal and more Immediate to the Reception, is desired. It is also True that a Private Interior Act of Worship would suffice to
fulfill this Act of Faith, but Good Liturgy, by its very Nature, should be a Public Expression of one's Faith.
If one grants the desire for Public, Individual Acts-of Latria, prior to the Reception of the
Eucharist, then there is no more appropriate clear Symbol-of Adoration than the Genuflection,
for the Latin Rite Catholic today. While Powerful Monarchs often welcomed Kneeling in the past as a Sign of Fealty, I doubt whether even the Pope wants to
promote this Symbol of Reverence to his Person today. Few would deny that the Traditional Sign of Eucharistic Adoration
in the Latin Rite has been Kneeling or the Genuflection. However, "the Bending of the Knee" is also the most Scripturally
Appropriate Gesture to be made, to both God the Father and our Lord Jesus
Christ. The Lord God, Speaking-through Isaiah the Prophet, says: "To
Me, every Knee must Bend" (Isaiah 45:23). And Saint Paul points out that "at Jesus' Name, every Knee must Bend in the
Heavens, on the Earth, and under the Earth" (Philippians 2:10). Even when Scripture Records a Mockery of
Christ's Divine Person, it records the Act of a Mock Bending on the Knee.
"They Genuflected before Him and Pretended to Pay Him Homage" (Mark 15:19). Undoubtedly, there is no other Sign today
for the Latin Rite Catholic that conveys so clearly Adoration toward the
Eucharist, or is more Scripturally and Traditionally Appropriate, than the "Bending of the Knee".
As this Strong Recommendation of the Church gradually becomes Implemented, it will have to be done in a
True Response of the Spirit. It must not be Forced upon anyone! If this Act of
Reverence is Interpreted as a Genuflection, care must be taken that those who do not make this Exterior Sign-of
Adoration are not Judged as Less Holy. First of all, there are Elderly and Injured People
for whom a Genuflection may be Difficult. Secondly, the
Genuflection, as a Sign, demonstrates the Holiness of the Eucharist, and not the
Sanctity of the Communicant. Today, however, a possibility far greater than these, is that this Sign-of Reverence,
strongly recommended by the Church, will not be Implemented by Pastors and Congregations, out of a
False Respect for the Feelings of those who cannot, or will not, make this recommended Act-of Homage to the Eucharistic
Lord. Care must especially be taken, therefore, that the Faithful are told Clearly, what the