Why do Some People Genuflect Before Receiving Communion?

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Some confusion arises concerning whether it is proper to genuflect before receiving the Holy Communion. The Scared Congregation for Sacraments and Divine worship did state, “When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is required, since kneeling is itself a sign of Adoration. When they receive Holy Communion standing, it is “strongly recommended” that, coming up in procession, they should make a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament. This should be done at the right time and place, so that the order of people to and from Communion is not disrupted” (General Instruction, #1). When we see people genuflecting before receiving Communion, it is because they are trying to  reverence the Holy Eucharist.

In at least three places in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in descriptions of how the congregation receives communion, we find the phrase, “…  the communicants approach, make the proper reverence, and stand in front of the priest…” to receive communion (see no. 244, 246, 247). The liturgical issue here is that we engage our bodies in showing a sign of respect as we approach to receive the Eucharist.

The Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship in Inestimable donum (1980) permitted the faithful to receive Holy Communion either kneeling or standing according to the norms established by the local Bishops’ Conference. In each diocese, Kneeling or standing to receive Holy Communion is established by parish custom.


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