In the 1st reading today, Isaiah 45:6b-8,18,21b-25, we are reminded of who God is and our relationship with God. “To me every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear”, but this can sometimes be very confusing. Did you know that when greeting the Queen or King one should as a woman curtsey a traditional gesture of greeting, in which a girl or woman bends her knees while bowing her head. It is the female equivalent of male bowing or genuflecting in Western cultures. In this sense we are offering to the Queen or King the same that should be offered to God. Taken a step further, it was traditional when a man asked a woman to dance with him, the woman would curtsey and the man would bow to the lady. There are actually a number of formal dances that begin with the woman curtseying and the man bowing to each other. Now for men bowing can either be a full bow from the waist or a head bow which is at the neck only.
St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians 2:10-11 says That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, reminding us of the prophet Isaiah.
So what is my point of all this? These actions were done out of courtesy, respect for the other and in some cultures an acknowledgement of Christ present in the other. Today often times courtesy has been forgotten or never taught. But within the church it stall plays a special role.
- Before we sit down or sometimes when we enter the church we genuflect.
- When we cross in front of the Altar we bow to the Altar
- When we cross in front of the Tabernacle we genuflect to the Tabernacle
- We strike our breasts three times during the Confiteor
- During the Nicene Creed or Apostles Creed, we bow our heads when we say “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.”
- We kneel for the 1st part of the Eucharistic prayer
- We may strike our breast three times during the Lamb of God.
- We bow our heads or genuflect before receiving communion.
- We bow our heads for the final blessing.