Ask the Deacon

Why do we sit, stand and kneel at different parts of the Mass?


In his work “The Spirit of the Liturgy” Pope Benedict XVI devotes a number of pages to exploring the various postures that we take throughout the course of the Mass. Some of the most prominent of these postures include sitting, standing and kneeling. It can be a helpful subject to reflect upon on occasion, because these movements can sometimes become routine.

“Sitting” Pope Benedict XVI explains, “should be at the service of recollection.” When sitting, our bodies are more relaxed and are disposed to hearing and meditating upon the readings, responsorial psalm and homily. In a word, we sit to listen.

Conversely, we stand for the Gospel out of reverence for the words of Jesus Christ that are proclaimed. When he is present, the Deacon carries the Book of the Gospels in the entrance procession at Mass, and places it on the altar (a place of prominence) until the Gospel reading. Finally, the Deacon or Priest always kisses the Book of the Gospels at the conclusion of the proclamation, something that is not done for the other scripture readings. All of these considerations illustrate the great reverence we have for the words of the Gospel and the reason why we stand for their proclamation.

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI explains the significance of kneeling at Mass. In the visions of the heavenly liturgy in the Book of Revelation, the liturgy that we enter into at each and every Mass, the word kneeling or proskynein is used to describe the posture of the heavenly host. Just as we participate more fully in the heavenly liturgy by echoing the songs of praise by the hosts of angels (Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts…), so too do we participate more perfectly by mirroring their posture before almighty God. At every Mass we kneel before our Blessed Lord, the one who we owe our very existence, who is truly present before us in the Eucharist.

“Ask the Deacon” features three Transitional Deacons who will be ordained June 3 to the priesthood in the Diocese of Providence — Deacons Brian Morris, Joseph Brice and Stephen Battey — who respond to questions about the faith from Rhode Island Catholic readers.

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