April 18, 2007

LITURGICAL DANCE: the kind that the Vatican WANTS you to do


275. A bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. There are two kinds of bows: a bow of the head and a bow of the body.
a. A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.

b. A bow of the body, that is to say a profound bow, is made to the altar; … in the Creed at the words Et incarnatus est (by the power of the Holy Spirit … made man)…

A bow of the head: bend the neck so the head moves forward and downward.

A bow of the body (profound bow): bend at the waist so the entire upper body moves forward and downward

Examples of a few of the places where these bows occur during Mass

A bow of the HEAD “when the three Divine Persons are named together”

Glory to God in the highest. … you alone are the Most High, JESUS CHRIST, WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.


A bow of the HEAD at the name of Jesus
We ask this through our Lord JESUS Christ who lives and reigns…

The Gospel of the Lord. —Praise to you, Lord JESUS Christ.

We believe in one Lord, JESUS Christ, the only Son of God

... keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, JESUS Christ.

A bow of the HEAD at the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary
… in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and what I have failed to do; and I ask Blessed MARY, ever virgin…

A bow of the BODY (profound bow) during the following words in the Creed

- - - -

Start to download a free PDF copy of the "General Instruction of the Roman Missal".
Click HERE for it.


Blogger beez said...

Thanks for this instruction, Father.

Recently, I have started to make such bows myself, even when praying silently (such as during the Glory Be and the Hail Mary). I didn't realize that it was appropriate to bow for Mary's name as well (although, I am happy it is).

I guess now when I say my Rosary, I'll almost look Muslim. :)

4:34 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

if there is an Eastern Catholic Church that you could visit, go there for the Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy (it counts as valid for your Sunday Mass obligation). You will see A LOT OF BOWING AND A LOT OF SIGNS OF THE CROSS.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Theocoid said...

Thanks, Father. I catch mnost of these but you've pointed out a few I miss.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

I have found that by being physically obedient to all of those things I listen much more attentively to all of the words at Mass. Over time it has taught me to pray more attentively.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous cjmr said...

A few questions:

Is the bow done before receiving Communion supposed to be a head bow or a profound bow?

When cantoring, is the cantor supposed to do the head bows that would fall during times when s/he is singing?

2:58 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


The cantors or the choir are technically members of the congregation. Ideally they are to observe everything that applies to the congregation. However, it is understandable that at certain moments requiring the leadership of the cantors or the choir they do not assume the same postures as the congregation. For instance, just as a lector reads standing while everyone else is seated, so a cantor sings the responsorial psalm standing while everyone else is seated.

If you can manage slight variations on the bows while leading singing, fine. If not, don't worry.

As far as I know so far, it is only the U.S. that limits the sign of reverence before receiving communion to a mere bow of the head. However, no one will knock your head if you bow more deeply. In fact, the Instruction even states that if someone should kneel down that person is not to be denied. The incoherent thing about the U.S. stating that the sign of reverence before receiving communion in the U.S. is to be a bow of the head is that the Instruction (in # 157) still requires the priest to GENUFLECT before HE receives communion.

Here are the sections of the Instruction ("General Instruction of the Roman Missal") that pertain to the bowing and kneeling of the people in regards to the Eucharist.

43. [….] In the dioceses of the United States of America, 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. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration. The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise.

159. The Communion chant begins while the priest is receiving the Sacrament….
160. The priest then takes the paten or ciborium and goes to the communicants, who, as a rule, approach in a procession. [….] The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. [….] When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. [….] When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.

Genuflections and Bows
274. A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. [….] If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself. Otherwise all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession. Ministers carrying the processional cross or candles bow their heads instead of genuflecting.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Get a PDF copy of the G.I.R.M. for free at

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Dim Bulb said...

This new dance...it can be done without gaudy colored leotards, right?

4:54 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

dim bulb,

It can be done WITH them too. There's no excuse.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Histor the Wise said...

Relevant or not...

Liturgical dance is mentioned in Mystery Science Theater 3000, when the characters watch "Manos: the Hands of Fate."

That's how bad it is.


7:37 PM  
Blogger onionboy said...

"I have found that by being physically obedient to all of those things I listen much more attentively to all of the words at Mass. Over time it has taught me to pray more attentively."

Over time, yes, I think that must be key because right now I'm thinking I wouldn't focus on much of anything accept if I was bowing at the right time and to the correct degree.

Sure as we're born I am no fan of the modern liturgical dance thang but I'll have to think on this for a bit.


12:50 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


When I entered the monastery (and therefore years before I became a priest), the monks pointed out to me these various bows. I very soon found at Mass that the Gospel of John had me bobbing my head A LOT. That particular Gospel has the name of Jesus plastered into a greater number of its sentences than the other Gospels.

So I developed the following strategy: if it was the Gospel of John at Mass that day, then during the Gospel as soon as the name of "Jesus" occurred the first time I just bowed my head and left it down for the whole Gospel until after the response at the end of the Gospel, "Praise to you, Lord JESUS Christ."

It can grow on you. I make the bow of the head as a nod -- calm, not deeply, not fast.

But have you ever attended and Eastern Catholic or Orthodox Eucharistic liturgy? Bowing? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

1:02 PM  
Blogger onionboy said...

Father, you can call me Owen :) My name is all over my sites. Onionboy is just the handle.

Our parish, wonderful priest, is too user friendly for me but it's where we came into the Church and the Lord's been good to us there. If and when I start bowin' down I'll be sticking out like a sore convert. ;-)

"But have you ever attended and Eastern Catholic or Orthodox Eucharistic liturgy? "

"But have you ever attended and Eastern Catholic or Orthodox Eucharistic liturgy?"

Not yet. I'm still getting the hang of being Catholic period let alone East vrs West :-)

But I am open to it and I've made friends with a wonderful priest who comes into the book store and he keeps inviting me to his church which is indeed, Orthodox.


4:02 PM  
Anonymous Sharon said...

...or for some other good reason.

Is that the sort of loophole which can enable a priest to give permission for just about any reason for not kneeling?

4:56 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Sharon, that instruction is about what the people should do, not the priest. It does not authorize the priest to decide the matter.

5:43 AM  
Anonymous churchmouse said...


I was told once by a priest that it is also proper to bow your head when the name of the reigning Pontiff is spoken (during the Eucharistic prayer), as well as when the name of a saint whose feast day is being celebrated is spoken.

Any thoughts?

8:30 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


The G.I.R.M. calls for bowing the head at the name "of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated", that is, for example, on the memorial, feast or solemnity of that saint. This entire blogpost started off with the citation including that directive.

The instruction does not call for bowing at the name of the reigning Pontiff.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Maureen said...

I was fully briefed on genuflection, and as a longtime anime fan, I think I execute profound bows without too much trouble. But as a lifelong Catholic, I can confidently say that nobody ever informed me about this "bowing head at names" bit even peripherally until last summer, and I thought it was really only for the Tridentine.

This explains a lot about the various head positions one sees in the pews, however. And my mom apparently does this all the time, but I didn't realize it was a coordinated thing until now.

The interesting bit is that customarily I do bow my head at some of these points, but I must have picked that up by osmosis from my mom and other older folks. I had no idea it was connected to the words being said. I picked up a lot more from reading books as a kid than we were taught, but I guess bowing heads at the name of Jesus isn't anything that shows up in legends of the saints.

So I called up my mom, and she had no idea we hadn't been taught this at parochial school or in CCD. (If she'd realized, she would have taught us, of course.)

Oh, well. I guess I better get me a copy of the Order of Mass and a great big highlighter. It's a real pain to try to remember to do all this basic procedural stuff we never learned, but the sooner I start the sooner it's second nature. Sigh. Maybe EWTN will run an instructional show or something.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Click HERE to download a free PDF copy of the "General Instruction of the Roman Missal".

6:52 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Yes, but that just gives _examples_. Unless the letters _in the book_ are a different color _at every occurrence_, I won't figure out that it's time to move my head until at least six seconds after the prayer is over.

Especially since we have choir at the 9:30, and I'm not really awake until 11 AM.

4:40 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Maureen, I had to grow into it. It has become second nature.

7:49 AM  

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