November 12, 2017

On the First Sunday of Advent (December 2-3), we are going to change our posture during the Communion Rite. This change will bring us into conformity with the liturgical norms of the Archdiocese of Seattle. Specifically this change will involve the whole assembly remaining standing from the Great Amen until the end of the Communion Procession. Following the procession, and after the Blessed Sacrament has been returned to the Tabernacle, we will all be seated for some time of quiet reflection.

Here is the text from the Archdiocesan Policy: “The faithful remain standing after the ‘Lamb of God’ until the end of the Communion Procession unless prevented by age, infirmity or some other personal situation (e.g., small children, etc.)” (Many Gifts, One Spirit, EU 2.a).

Those are the liturgical regulations (in place in our Archdiocese for 15 years) that prompt me to ask that we change our posture to conform to these regulations. But what is behind this change of posture? A reflection from the U.S. Bishops Committee on Liturgy can help us to understand the rationale:

“Each posture we assume at Mass underlies and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we are taking part at that moment in our worship…The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground! So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving. In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently this posture has come to signify adoration. It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the entire Eucharistic Prayer” (Postures and Gestures at Mass, USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, May 22, 2002).

Following the climax of the Eucharistic Prayer, the Great Amen, the faithful stand for the Lord’s Prayer. Postures and Gestures at Mass continues, “Standing is a sign of respect and honor…This posture, from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above (italics are in the original). When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us. By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgement of this wonderful gift… the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.”

These are good words to pray and reflect on as we move toward the First Sunday of Advent and the implementation of this liturgical regulation in our three communities. As we assume this common posture of standing while all receive communion, may we be united with the whole Body of Christ with whom we enter into communion - the Body of Christ present in the elements of bread and wine, and the Body of Christ of whom we are all a part. May this posture reinforce the power of this sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible!

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni