We bow before Thee

I began this series after praying about what subject I should base my next post. The hymn " Holy God we praise Thy Name" occurred to me soon after, and it seemed to offer just what I needed in providing an inspiring framework that begged for a wide-ranging commentary on things we have not been getting right.

And so we arrive at "We bow before Thee" - but do we ? Really? Bearing in mind the beyond awesome nature of God we commented in the earlier post " ..Lord of All...", do we really act in a physically appropriate manner in the Presence of the Body, Blood,Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament in our Tabernacles? Do we physically relate to the Blessed Sacrament in an appropriate manner?

In order to cover these matters, I will adopt the procedure of reflecting upon my experience at week-day morning and Sunday Mass in my own Parish Church. 

             The fan-shaped Sacred Heart Parish Church as set up for Easter Season.
             The banner of the Risen Lord obscure the fine Crucifix,and temporarily
             displaces the Celebrant's " Throne" which is normally the focus of attention.
             Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is shunted off to the right as seen in the
                                                                following picture.

Virtually the only people for whom Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is the visual focus of attention on entering the church, are the few who are seated at the extreme left front pews(not seen in the above picture, but further to the left. As will be quite obvious, the design of the church destroys all conventional orientations, and the sense of the sacred. Rather it is like a large Auditorium.

The effects of this layout - now a few decades old- on the behaviour of the parishoners is quite marked. The early arriver will note that ALMOST NO-ONE genuflects in the direction of the Tabernacle or even of the altar .Some will give a little bob in the latter direction, or an odd quick half or quarter bow. But the Lord Himself goes unacknowledged.  What do they think they are doing? What do they believe? Others still, simply walk in and sit down. Relatively few will actually kneel in prayer before taking their seat. But the worst and saddest performances come at Whole School Masses when up to 600 children from Kindergarten to Year 6 attend under Teacher supervision. There is one Teacher who leads her Class in and stops them in the aisle, then indicates to the long line to look at the Tabernacle, and then to genuflect which they all do and properly before filing into their pew. But the rest are simply led to a particular block of pews by their Teachers who are not seen to genuflect toward the Tabernacle and carefully shepherded into the pews , with Teacher deciding who should sit or not sit next to whom. Some few children attempt a bob at the altar, or bizarrely at the wall at the end of their pew OPPOSITE TO the Tabernacle.Many of them attempt a swift Sign of the Cross for no apparent reason.

" We bow before Thee?" A " Catholic" education?

In the following picture one can see a little to the left of the side-lined Tabernacle a Votive Candle Rack. Only 10 days ago I caught sight - quite by chance - of a 60yrs old or thereabouts lady having piously lit her Votive Candle and prayed for her intention , walk past the very front of the Tabernacle at a range of about 8 inches  or 20 Centimetres and having passed it in a muddled afterthought , quarter turn and give a fractional bob or nod before passing along. Another lady passed in a crowd would have received greater respect. Don't get me wrong, this was not I am sure a " bad " person. No, rather a victim of 40/50 years of failure to be educated in her Faith, Failure from the Pulpit, compounded by non- sacral architecture  and a general collapse in careful religious observance.

" We bow before Thee?" Hardly.

God with us - Emmanuel. Really with us - in our midst - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament : " And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Amen."(Matt. 28:20)

This is fundamentally serious. It ought to have any Priest observing it in a state of horror and planning a systematic education of his people. But before that, any Priest worth his salt would be moving the Tabernacle to the place of honour in the "Sanctuary" and giving up his proud position, betaking his "Throne" to the side where it went at Easter for the sake of a mere banner and he would be re-ordering the church to provide a true Sanctuary for the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

                                               The God of all Glory - side-lined.

"We bow before Thee".. in what other ways do we physically address God Most High in the Blessed Sacrament? Well, most obviously in receiving Holy Communion. Both Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis teach us what is appropriate by the way they require Holy Communion to be received when they are administering the Blessed Sacrament.

That is on the tongue and, preferably kneeling.

Who are we to receive our Blessed Lord standing? Who are we to handle the Blessed Sacrament with our profane hands?


Oh! I can hear you say now " But the Church allows it!" Yes. It was among the post-Conciliar changes offered  as an option . See with what caution the option was given :

"The Pope grants that throughout the territory of your conference, each bishop may, according to his prudent judgment and conscience, authorize in his diocese the introduction of the new rite for giving communion. The condition is the complete avoidance of any cause for the faithful to be shocked and any danger of irreverence toward the Eucharist. The following norms must therefore be respected. [My emphasis. One wonders if this condition is being met.]
1. The new manner of giving communion must not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional practice. It is a matter of particular seriousness that in places where the new practice is lawfully permitted every one of the faithful have the option of receiving communion on the tongue and even when other persons are receiving communion in the hand. The two ways of receiving communion can without question take place during the same liturgical service. There is a twofold purpose here: that none will find in the new rite anything disturbing to personal devotion toward the Eucharist; that this sacrament, the source and cause of unity by its very nature, will not become an occasion of discord between members of the faithful.
2. The rite of communion in the hand must not be put into practice indiscriminately. Since the question involves human attitudes, this mode of communion is bound up with the perceptiveness and preparation of the one receiving. It is advisable, therefore, that the rite be introduced gradually and in the beginning within small, better prepared groups and in favorable settings. Above all it is necessary to have the introduction of the rite preceded by an effective catechesis, so that the people will clearly understand the meaning of receiving in the hand and will practice it with the reverence owed to the sacrament. This catechesis must succeed in excluding any suggestion that in the mind of the Church there is a lessening of faith in the eucharistic presence and in excluding as well any danger or hint of danger of profaning the Eucharist.
3. The option offered to the faithful of receiving the Eucharistic bread in their hand and putting it into their own mouth must not turn out to be the occasion for regarding it as ordinary bread or as just another religious article. Instead this option must increase in them a consciousness of the dignity of the members of Christ's Mystical Body, into which they are incorporated by baptism and by the grace of the Eucharist. It must also increase their faith in the sublime reality of the Lord's body and blood, which they touch with their hand. Their attitude of reverence must measure up to what they are doing.
4. As to the way to carry out the new rite: one possible model is the traditional usage, which expresses the ministerial functions, by having the priest or deacon place the host in the hand of the communicant. Alternatively, it is permissible to adopt a simpler procedure, namely, allowing the faithful themselves to take the host from the ciborium or paten. The faithful should consume the host before returning to their place; the minister's part will be brought out by use of the usual formulary, The body of Christ, to which the communicant replies: Amen. [Note: Rome later forbid the Communicant to take the Host themselves.]
5. Whatever procedure is adopted, care must be taken not to allow particles of the eucharistic bread to fall or be scattered. Care must also be taken that the communicants have clean hands and that there comportment is becoming and in keeping with the practices of the different peoples.
6. In the case of communion under both kinds by way of intinction, it is never permitted to place on the hand of the communicant the host that has been dipped in the Lord's blood.
7. Bishops allowing introduction of the new way of receiving communion are requested to send to this Congregation after six months a report on the result of its concession."
Note: The "Summary of Decrees" on confirmation of the decisions of conferences of bishops in Notitiae lists the granting of this faculty to the following English-speaking conferences (as found in AAS and Notitiae):
South Africa, 3 February 1970
Canada, 12 February 1970
Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), 2 October 1971
Zambia, 11 March 1974
New Zealand, 24 April 1974
Australia, 26 September 1975
England and Wales, 6 March 1976
Papua and New Guinea, 28 April 1976
Ireland, 4 September 1976
Pakistan, 29 October 1976
United States, 17 June 1977
Scotland, 7 July 1977
Malaysia and Singapore, 3 October 1977

SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS, Instruction Immensae caritatis, on facilitating reception of Communion in certain circumstances, 29 January 1973: AAS 65 (1973) 264-271; Not 9 (1973) 157-164.
Part 4. Devotion and reverence toward the Eucharist in the case of communion in the hand
Ever since the Instruction Memoriale Domini three years ago, some of the conferences of bishops have been requesting the Apostolic See for the faculty to allow ministers distributing communion to place the eucharistic bread in the hand of the faithful. The same Instruction contained a reminder that "the laws of the Church and the writings of the Fathers give ample witness of a supreme reverence and utmost caution toward the Eucharist" and that this must continue. Particularly in regard to this way of receiving communion, experience suggests certain matters requiring careful attention.
On the part of both the minister and the recipient, whenever the host is placed in the hand of a communicant there must be careful concern and caution, especially about particles that might fall from the hosts.
                               Even before his election the then Cardinal Bergoglio had begun distributing
                                                 Holy Communion on the tongue though not in every instance.
The usage of communion in the hand must be accompanied by relevant instruction or catechesis on Catholic teaching regarding Christ's real and permanent presence under the eucharistic elements and the proper reverence toward this sacrament.
The faithful must be taught that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and that therefore the worship of latria or adoration belonging to God is owed to Christ present in this sacrament. They are also to be instructed not to omit after communion the sincere and appropriate thanksgiving that is in keeping with their individual capacities, state, and occupation.
Finally, to the end that their coming to this heavenly table may be completely worthy and fruitful, the faithful should be instructed on its benefits and effects, for both the individual and society, so that their familial relationship to the Father who gives us our "daily bread," may reflect the highest reverence for him, nurture love, and lead to a living bond with Christ, in whose flesh and blood we share."

Pope Paul Vl approved this Instruction, confirmed it with his authority, and ordered its publication, setting the day of publication as its effective date.

                               The Sense of the Sacred -extending every reverence.

Let us do everything we can to recover the sense of the Sacred and the demonstration of all reverence for the Presence of Jesus Christ among us in the Blessed Sacrament.


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