The word genuflect quite literally means to “bend the knee.” But there is more meaning behind the word than just bending your knee to the floor. To genuflect is to recognize and acknowledge the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament – Jesus – by bending the right knee before the place in which we pray and also after we leave our place of prayer. In other words, we genuflect before each liturgy, and after each liturgy to remind ourselves of the very real presence of God.
All that we do, say, pray, and sing in worship is intended to point us to Jesus, even some things as basic as bending a knee. Our gestures, our movements, even our posture can lead our thoughts to a greater awareness of God’s presence in our prayer – as C.S. Lewis wrote, “The body ought to pray as well as the soul… body and soul are both better for it.”
Can we find the word “genuflect” in scripture? Not exactly, but the meaning is there. The closest word from the Greek translation of the Old Testament is Proskynein, which literally means to bow one’s whole body to the floor, to prostrate the whole self, as a sign of reverence an honor to the one before you.
We find the meaning in the New Testament as well. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, (2:9-11), describes Jesus in this way: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth…
To genuflect is to show a sign of reverence and humility. When I bend my knee to the floor, my body makes a connection with my mind and witnesses my belief that I am absolutely open to the will and transforming power of God. If you come across someone who thinks that genuflection is silly or just for children – tell them not to get bent out of shape – just get bent into shape and think about the amazing presence of Jesus.
Director of Worship, Church of St. Joseph
The sign of the cross probably originated with the early baptismal rights in which the minister would use a finger of his right hand to mark the candidates the forehead. There is no reference to this in scripture, but one of the early church fathers, Tertullian (d. after 220), says the sign of the cross dates back to the apostles. St. Augustine (d. 430) said marking oneself with the sign of the cross was a Christian’s outward profession of faith.
Originally, the sign of the cross was likened to a mark of ownership. In the ancient world, owners would mark their slaves on the forehead. Since at baptism we are “promised” to Christ, it became the tradition for Christians to sign themselves on the forehead. It is one of our oldest customs to do this just before the Gospel is proclaimed in the liturgy. This “little” sign of the cross was the practice of Christian for many centuries.
The large cross that we trace from forehead to waist and across our shoulders started later. The first dates we know are from the sixth century and might have been more broadly practiced from about the eleventh century. In the 13th century, Pope Innocent III decreed that the sign of the cross should be made with three fingers from the forehead to the chest, and from the right to the left shoulder. At a later date, the whole hand was used, and the direction changed from the left to the right shoulder. This short but beautiful prayer expresses our faith in the Trinity and also recalls our Baptismal Promise – our Promise in Christ.
Director of Worship, Church of St. Joseph
Dear Friend in Christ,
Thank you for taking the time to visit our parish family.
If you have ever taken the time to read the words on currency, you may have noted the saying “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning“out of many, one.” It’s certainly reflective of our country, where we come from many backgrounds to form America, but it also something that is so important in our Catholic faith. Every time we gather at Mass, we receive the Eucharist, God’s love given to all in the same way. And receiving the Eucharist, we are called to be mindful of how we come together as one body to love and serve one another.
At our parish, we strive first and foremost to help people experience this love of God that is given to all. Masses are the cornerstone of our week, where we hear God’s Word come alive, and receive Him in Holy Communion. We have daily Mass, numerous opportunities for prayer and the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation and anointing of the sick. We have a strong faith formation, so our young can learn about the faith, coupled with an excellent school where children learn not just the subjects to prepare them for high school, but about God and their faith to prepare them to become saints. In so many ways, our parish helps people see what it means to say “I believe in God” by opening hearts, minds, and ears to God’s presence. Continue reading Pastor’s Welcome