As the Eucharistic Prayer begins at Mass in our country, something kind of unique typically happens: the congregation kneels. Many people are surprised to know that this is not the universal rule in the Roman Missal, which indicates that everyone should stand during this part of the Mass. Only during the consecration of the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood is kneeling prescribed everywhere – “if possible,” the rule says, given the place and one’s ability to do so!
Our bishops in the USA, however, have determined that kneeling is the posture most appropriate for us during this time. As shepherds of Christ’s flock, it’s very much their role to do this. And it’s easy to see their reasoning: in the most fundamental sense, kneeling signifies adoration: it is a posture of humility before someone or something more important than oneself. (From this more basic meaning developed the secondary meaning of penitence, that is, sorrow for our sins and failures.)
During the Eucharistic Prayer, the most solemn part of the Eucharist, something superlative happens: He who is far greater than us acts and actually becomes present. True, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (at nos. 1356ff.) indicates that the principal focus of the Eucharistic celebration is not specifically adoration (this, rather, is “an action of thanksgiving,” the root meaning of the word eucharist). Yet the sentiment of adoration flows rather immediately, and especially in our too-secular and self-centered culture ought to be highlighted. This surely is the motive of our bishops in guiding us in this way.