Catholic calisthenics: Sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, kneel…

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The Roman Catholic mass is a mystery to most evangelicals. If an evangelical attends a Catholic church for a wedding or a funeral and a mass is performed they’ll witness many things they’re not used to.

During the mass, the Catholic priest goes through an elaborate liturgical ritual in which he prays specific prayers in a specific order and the attending Catholics respond in rote exactly as they’ve been directed. You can visit Catholics churches in twenty different countries and the ritual is exactly the same. The ultimate focus of the mass is when the priest allegedly changes bread wafers and wine into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The priest then offers up the immolated Jesus host to God the Father as a sacrifice for the sins of the congregation and anyone else who is named. The attendees then line up to receive the Jesus wafer from the priest and consume it, believing as they’ve been taught that the Jesus wafer will impart graces enabling them to avoid sin so they can merit Heaven. If the priest did not follow the prescribed liturgical formula exactly, the mass could be completely invalid.

One thing that often makes a big impression on evangelical visitors to a Catholic mass is how often the attendees are required to change their posture; from sitting to standing, to kneeling, etc. It’s all part of the elaborate ritual and is not to be deviated from. During the course of the mass the Catholic is required to assume the following postures in this order:

  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Kneel
  • Stand
  • Kneel or Stand
  • Stand
  • Sit or Kneel
  • Stand*

Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down. The slavish ritualism is striking to behold.

I was an altar boy from 5th grade through 8th grade. After having to memorize all the spoken responses in Latin, the church changed the rote prayers of the mass to English. Argh! Once I became comfortable with the routine again, one of my favorite things to do as an altar boy was to observe the mass attendees. A large percentage looked like mass was the last place they wanted to be. Catholics are told by their church that if they miss weekly mass on Sunday it’s a “mortal” sin and they’re going to hell and many of those who still bother to attend mass (only 22% of American Catholics attended obligatory weekly mass in 2016) are there strictly because of this threat.

But there were some people at mass who were very enthusiastic about the ritual and those tended to be older women. They were the first to stand, the first to kneel, and the first to sit down. They were also the first and the loudest in saying the responses. Their demeanor seemed to express to the rest of the congregation, “You poor, unpious saps need to refer to the missalette, but look at me! I’m such an outstanding religious person that I’ve got this whole thing down pat and I know it even better than father (the priest).” If a priest deviates from the ritual by even one iota, one of these self-appointed holier-than-thous will be on the phone to the bishop’s office the following day. Yes, God said even the things we do that we think are good deeds are like filthy rags in his sight.

God’s Word says there’s no need for priests and sacrifices any longer. Jesus did away with the Old Testament sacrificial system and precluded the ersatz Catholic sacrifice of the mass when He cried, “It is finished” on the cross. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and High Priest. He is the only Mediator between God and men. Accept Christ and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” – Hebrews 10:11-14

*Postures and Gestures at Mass

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6 thoughts on “Catholic calisthenics: Sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, kneel…

  1. What a contrast between man’s rituals and God’s truth! As I’m reading through, the first part, I’m wondering, “This is so complicated! And what if it’s not done exactly right?!?” And then in reading I get to the last part and Word of God makes it so simple so real, so perfectly clear!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, the Catholic sacramental system is clergy-driven and complicated, making the laypeople entirely dependent. That’s not an accident. True, the Gospel in contrast is so simple a child can understand it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do like the kneeling part though as opposed to sitting and having it passed down the pews the way it is most often done in the Baptist churches that I grew up in, but I don’t think that the kneeling part is just exclusive to the Catholic way of receiving communion.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree that there’s nothing wrong with kneeling while partaking in the Lord’s Supper. It’s definitely a humble moment to contemplate Jesus paying the penalty for my sins on the cross. Unfortunately, the RCC takes the Lord’s Supper to a dimension He never intended.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Few times I had to be at a Catholic church I had the surprise of exactly what you described of the various motions involved not to mention how the Word was mentioned by not seriously preached.

    Liked by 1 person

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