Kneel Before God! DOMINUS EST—IT IS THE LORD!’By Most Rev. Athanasius Schneider -PREFACE- “I have read the whole book ,(‘Dominus Est’, by Bishop Schneider), with delight. It is excellent”- Francis …More
Kneel Before God!

DOMINUS EST—IT IS THE LORD!’By Most Rev. Athanasius Schneider
“I have read the whole book ,(‘Dominus Est’, by Bishop Schneider), with delight. It is excellent”- Francis Cardinal Arinze
Prefect Congregation for Divine Worship

In the Book of Revelation, St. John recounts how having seen and heard that which was revealed to him, he pros trated himself in adoration at the feet of the angel of God (Rev 2 2:8). To prostrate oneself or to kneel down before the majesty of the divine presence, in humble adoration, was a habit of reverence that Israel always practiced in the pres ence of the Lord. The First Book of Kings says: “Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and supplication to the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven; and he stood, and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice” (1 Kings 8:54—55). The position of supplication of the king is clear: He was kneeling before the altar.
The same tradition can also be found in the New Testament, where we see Peter kneeling before Jesus (see Lk 5 who knelt to request the healing of his daughter (Lk 8:41); the Samaritan who returned and knelt to give thanks to Jesus (Lk 17:16); and Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who, on her knees, asked the favor of having her brother brought back to life On 11:32). The same attitude of prostration before the stupendous presence and divine revelation is found throughout the Book of Revelation (Rev 5:8, 14; 19:4).
Intimately linked to this tradition was the conviction that the holy Temple of Jerusalem was the dwelling place of God and, therefore, in the Temple one had to exhibit bodily gestures expressive of a profound sense of humility and reverence in the presence of the Lord.
Likewise, in the Church, the profound conviction that in the Eucharistic Species the Lord is truly and really present and the growing practice of keeping Holy Communion in tabernacles contributed to the practice of kneeling in an attitude of humble adoration before the Lord in the Eucharist.
In fact, concerning the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic Species, the Council of Trent proclaimed that “in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really and substantially contained under the appearances of those perceptible realities” (DS
Besides, St. Thomas Aquinas had already defined the Eucharist as latens Deitas * (Hymns) * Literally; “hidden Godhead” (i.e., “Godhead in hiding”).
. And the faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic Species was already part of the essence of the Faith of the Catholic Church and an intrinsic part of Catholic identity. It was clear that no one could edify the Church if such faith was even minimally under attack.
Therefore, the Eucharist, bread transubstantiated into the Body of Christ and wine into the Blood of Christ, God in our midst, had to be received with awe, with the greatest reverence, and in an attitude of humble adoration. Pope Benedict XVI, recalling the words of Saint Augustine: “Nerno autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit peccemus non adorando” (“No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore It”; Enarrationes in Psaimos 8g, 9), underscores that history: “Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. . . . Only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature” (Sacrarnenturn Caritatis no. 66).
Following this tradition, it is clear that assuming gestures and attitudes of the body and the spirit that facilitate si lence, recollection, and humble acceptance of our poverty before the infinite greatness and holiness of the One Who comes to meet us in the Eucharistic Species became consis tent and indispensable. The best way to express our sense of reverence toward the Eucharistic Lord was to follow the example of Peter, who, as the Gospel recounts, threw him self on his knees before the Lord and said: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord” (Lk 5:8).
Now, it is observed in some churches how those responsible for the liturgy not only force the faithful to receive The Holy Eucharist standing but have also removed all the kneelers, thus forcing the faithful to remain seated or standing, even during the elevation of the Sacred Species presented for adoration. It is strange that such provisions have been made in dioceses by liturgical officials or in churches by pastors, without the least amount of consultation of the faithful, even though, today more than ever, there is still talk in many places of “democracy in the Church.”
At the same time, speaking of Communion-in-the-hand, it is necessary for all to recognize that the practice was originally introduced as an abuse, and hurriedly in many places within the Church right after the econd Vatican Council, that it changed the centuries-long earlier practice, and that it is becoming now a regular practice throughout the whole Church. This change was then justified by asserting that it better reflected the Gospel or the ancient practice of the Church.
It is true that if it is possible to receive on the tongue, then one can also receive on the hand, both being bodily organs of equal dignity. Some people, to justify Communion-in-the- hand, cite the words of Jesus: “Take and eat” (Mk 14:2 2 Mt 26:26).
Yet, whatever the reasons put forth to sustain this practice, we cannot ignore what happens at the practical level when this method is used. This practice contributes (and has contributed),to a gradual, growing weakening of the attitude of reverence toward the Sacred Eucharistic Species. The ancient practice, on the other hand, better safeguards the sense of reverence.
Instead, an alarming lack of recollection and an overall spirit of carelessness have entered into liturgical celebrations. One now sees communicants frequently returning to their places as though nothing extraordinary has happened. Even more, children and adolescents are distracted. In many instances, one does not find that sense of serious ness and interior silence which ought to signal the presence of God in the soul.
Then there are the abuses of those who take the Sacred Species off to keep as a souvenir, of those who sell the Hosts, or worse yet, of those who take them for the purpose of profaning them in satanic rituals. Such situations have been observed.
Furthermore, in large open concelebrations, even in Rome, on various occasions one finds the Sacred Species tossed on the ground.
This situation causes us to reflect on the grave loss of faith, but also on the outrages and offenses to the Lord, Who deigns to come to meet us, wishing to make us like unto Him, so that the holiness of God may be reflected in us.
Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the necessity not only of our understanding the true and profound significance of the Eucharist, but also of celebrating the Holy Liturgy with dignity and reverence. He mentions that it is necessary to be aware of the importance of “gestures and posture, such as kneeling during the moments following the Eucharistic Prayer” (SC no. 65). Furthermore, in speaking of the reception of Holy Communion, he invites all to “do all possible so that the gesture in its simplicity correspond to the value of the personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the Sacrament” (no.50).
Against this background, one can appreciate this little book written by His Excellency Monsignor Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan, from its very significant title: Dorninus Est. It is to be hoped that this work will contribute to the current discussion on the Eucharist, the real and substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the consecrated Species of Bread and Wine. It is significant that Bishop Schneider begins his presentation on a personal note, recalling the profound Eucharistic faith of his mother and two other women, a faith preserved amid the great sufferings and sacrifices that the tiny community of Catholics of that country endured in the years of the Soviet perse cution. Starting from his experience, which aroused in him a great faith, wonder, and devotion for the Lord present in the Eucharist, he presents us with an historical-theological excursus that clarifies how the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, while kneeling, became the normative early practice in the Church for a long period of time.
I think it is now time to evaluate carefully the practice of Communion-in-the-hand and, if necessary, to abandon what was actually never called for in the Vatican II document Sacrosancturn Concilium nor by the Council Fathers but was, in fact, “accepted” as particular indult after it was introduced as an abuse in some countries.
Now, more than ever, it is necessary to help the Catholic faithful renew a living faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic Species in order to strengthen the life of the Church herself and to defend her in the midst of the dangerous distortions of the Faith, which such a situation continues to cause.
The reasons for such a change ought to be not so much academic as pastoral—spiritual, as well as liturgical. In short, it involves taking steps that will better build up the faith of Catholics. In this sense, Bishop Schneider demonstrates praiseworthy courage, because he knows the full meaning of the words of St. Paul: “Let all things be done for edification” (i Cor 14:26).

+ Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Jan. 8, 2008

Are people who receive Holy Communion on their knees just pious, self-righteous, show-offs? That's certainly how some like to portray them, but the Pope has a different thought.