Faith and Liturgy are interdependent. In the Eucharist the Church believes in Christ's real presence under the Eucharistic species through transubstantiation ( Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1413, 1376). As Christ Himself is present, He is honoured with the worship of Adoration ( CCC, 1418).
The Church, through the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), governs the celebration of Mass of the Ordinary Form, and instructs (no 274) that genuflection signifies adoration and the bow signifies reverence and honour (275).
GIRM 274 instructs that during Mass three genuflections are made by the priest celebrant: after showing of the Host, after showing of the Chalice, and before Communion. If the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the priest and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from the sanctuary.
This law applies only to those who are physically capable of genuflecting. It is an accepted principle of liturgical worship that what the Church believes ( Lex Credendi) must necessarily be reflected in the prayers and ceremonies of the Liturgy ( Lex Orandi). This principle is however violated when a priest celebrant substitutes a bow for genuflection, without good cause.
According to Bishop Peter Elliott, in his book Liturgical Question Box, in some countries e.g., in parts of Asia, the most reverential human gesture is a profound bow. Therefore several episcopal conferences, with the permission of the Holy See, have changed genuflection to a deep bow. However outside these countries with a particular law, no priest can take it upon himself to substitute a bow for genuflection during Mass. Such behaviour, in Bishop Elliott's view, constitutes a grave abuse.
Faith enlivened by Charity, has also another dimension - obedience. In his sermon on "Faith and Obedience", Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman observed: "In proportion as a man believes, so he obeys. In proportion to the imperfection of one, so is the imperfection of the other". Let us pray that the Lord will change our mindset and give us the heart that allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace.
JOHN FREY (DR)