Q: I was hoping you could settle a debate for me: Is it or is it not disrespectful to kneel on the Altar during the most important part of the Mass.
A: Respect for the presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist is not found in a particular posture. Whether a person is kneeling, sitting, standing, jogging in place or balancing on one foot…the respect comes from the heart of the person. Kneeling is a relatively new action in the Church (when I say that I mean its only been around for 500 or 600 years…and that’s not a long time in our Church) and long before that people stood throughout the entire celebration of the Mass, including the consecration. In fact, if you read the Second Eucharist Prayer (which is the oldest of all the Eucharist prayers, written by Hippolytus way back in the 3rd century…now that we could consider a long time) it says, “We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and we serve you.” Why would they say “stand,” because they were standing when the prayer was being read.
There is a big debate going on in the Church right now among Liturgist over what is right and what is proper…I won’t get into their debate… I just say look to the Holy Father… whatever his posture is, the man is just beaming holiness and love for Christ in the Eucharist. If we can only do a small portion of that… wouldn’t it be great.
Each Diocese has rules governing what will be accepted there and the person who sets those rules in the chief Liturgist of any Diocese, your Bishop. My suggestion to you is follow the example of the Holy Father and listen to your Bishop, if he says kneel, then kneel and other than that just keep your mind on the gift of the Eucharist you are about to receive and please don’t worry about the rest.