We all know that Sunday is a day of rest, so why is it that the Church insists we move around so much during mass? Kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, walk, kneel, sit, stand. Try saying that one ten times fast. The meaning behind the movements of the mass, or Catholic Aerobics, are often lost or forgotten among the other parts of the mass. So why do we go through these movements and what do they mean? I’ll admit that I knew very little about why mass involved so much movement, so I created a cheat sheet on certain aspects of mass for us to reflect upon the next time we go:
Standing: The times in which we stand during Mass are the times in which we are showing respect to either the Priest or the Word of God (during the Gospel). Just as we stand when we are introduced to a person, we stand when the priest enters to show respect. We also stand during the Gospel and Profession of Faith to show reverence and emphasize the words which we are hearing or professing.
Sitting: We sit primarily during the first and second reading and the responsorial psalms. This set-up, with us sitting and the reader standing, imitates a classroom with us as learners. During the Liturgy of the Word, we are the students, learning from the readings and from the lesson proclaimed through the homily.
Kneeling: We kneel during the sacrifice of the mass, standing only for the Our Father and Sign of Peace. We kneel during this time because we are witnessing the Eucharistic Consecration, kneeling symbolizes our reverence and respect for the sacrifice of Jesus and his physical presence. The act of kneeling links back to the beginning of the Church through Peter as he “knelt down and prayed” in Acts 9:40.*
Other aspects of the Mass that every Catholic ought to know:
Genuflecting: We genuflect when we enter or exit the pew to show reverence to the physical presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.
Transubstantiation: That hard word that we had to memorize how to spell in the 4th grade if we went to Catholic middle school and were too busy spelling to remember the meaning. Transubstantiation occurs during the consecration when the bread and wine are transformed into the true Body and Blood of Jesus. The second time that the bells are rung during the consecration alerts us that the fact that transubstantiation has just occurred.
Of course they are many more aspects of the Mass that have not been covered in this blog. If there is an aspect of the Mass you're confused about or have just learned about and would like to share, please comment below and we can continue learning!
*According to The General Instruction on the Roman Missal #43 (U.S. Version), “In the dioceses of the U.S.A., they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason.” Perhaps this is something that we ought to look into at our dorm masses!