November 19, 2017

As I shared with you last week, 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, which state, “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).

You will notice, if you worship in other dioceses throughout the country, that in some places people will kneel after the Lamb of God and remain kneeling throughout the communion rite. In other places, people will remain standing after the Lamb of God, but kneel when they return to their seats. Why the variety in postures throughout our country (and throughout the world)?

There are certain areas of the liturgy where the diocesan bishop has the authority and the responsibility to determine the liturgical practice in his diocese. The posture that the assembly assumes for the communion rite is one of those areas. In 2002, Archbishop Brunett issued what is known as “particular liturgical law” for our archdiocese, creating the policy quoted above.  Archbishop Sartain has affirmed that this is the policy of our archdiocese.

What is behind this norm, and all liturgical policies, is that we Catholics take our ritual actions, including our posture for prayer, seriously. There are times for signing ourselves with the sign of the cross, for bowing, kneeling, standing, and processing. All of these postures and ritual actions are filled with meaning.

To stand and to receive communion together is a sign that we are risen with Christ. It is worth repeating the passage I quoted in last week’s column: “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. 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…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” (Postures and Gestures at Mass, USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, May 22, 2002).

Receiving communion at Mass is both a personal and communal act. The communal act is the assembly of God’s people receiving communion together. When I return to my pew, I remain standing in prayerful communion with all my brothers and sisters who are receiving communion (unless, of course, I cannot physically stand for that period of time, in which case I kneel or am seated).

Time for personal prayer of thanksgiving is provided for in the ritual, after everyone has received communion. After the Blessed Sacrament is reposed in the Tabernacle, the priest and people are seated and pray in quiet thanksgiving together before standing for the Prayer after Communion.

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