Stand or Kneel; God Our Mother; 9/11


GIRM # 43 states:

…In the Diocese 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.

However, I am in Berkeley, California, and this instruction is not followed.  And GIRM #’s 95 and 96 state:

95. In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people whom God has made his own, a royal priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the spotless Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, and so that they may learn to offer themselves. They should, moreover, endeavor to make this clear by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration.

Thus, they are to shun any appearance of individualism or division, keeping before their eyes that they have only one Father in heaven and accordingly are all brothers and sisters to each other.

96. Indeed, they form one body, whether by hearing the word of God, or by joining in the prayers and the singing, or above all by the common offering of Sacrifice and by a common partaking at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and postures observed in common by the faithful.

What would you do?


I’ve recently pulled together some references by recent popes to God as our Mother.  My purpose for doing so is that for whatever reason, I’ve always been squeamish about referencing God as Mother, and so it has only been with some humility and struggle that I have come to accept the use of this image in prayer.  I of course attribute no gender to God.  God is neither male nor female.  Also, according to the understanding of analogical concepts held by Catholic theology, God’s fatherhood is more dissimilar than similar to any concept of fatherhood, or motherhood for that matter, that we could ever have.  But we happily call God a Rock, a Shield, and any number of other inanimate objects, so really, why not a woman?  After all, in one of our favorite parables, Jesus compares God to a Good Shepherd.  We often leave out that right before that in Luke 15 Jesus had just described God as a housewife.  So here are some passages you may find useful.

One caveat:  In “Jesus of Nazareth: Part I” by Benedict XVI, he cautions:

“The mystery of God’s maternal love is expressed with particular power in the Hebrew word rahamim.  Etymologically, this word means ‘womb,’ but it was later used to mean divine compassion for man, God’s mercy…. it is nonetheless also true that God is never named or addressed as mother, either in the Old or in the New Testament.  ‘Mother’ in the Bible is an image but not at title for God….. mother is not used as a title or a form of address for God” (139-140).

He explains that this was probably the case since most of the mother goddesses of the ancient world evoked some kind of pantheism, and it was only the image of Father that fully allowed for the transcendent otherness of God revealed to Israel.  At last that’s a guess.  Still, we call God Rock, why not Mother?  At this time, the distinction between image and title holds. It will be interesting to see if there is doctrinal development in this regard.  So here are some great quotes:

John Paul II explains that the use of Abba

“points indirectly to the mystery of the eternal generating which belongs to the inner life of God. … this generating has neither masculine nor feminine qualities. … God is spirit and possesses no property typical of the body, neither feminine nor masculine. Thus even fatherhood in God is completely divine and free of the masculine bodily characteristics proper to human fatherhood.”

The word “Father” is used in an

“ultracorporeal, superhuman, and completely divine sense” (Mulieris Dignitatem §8).

The Catechism explains:

“God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood” (§239); and again, “In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective ‘perfections’ of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband” (§370).

Pope John Paul I on the occasion of the Camp David peace talks taking place between Israeli and Palestinian representatives:

“God is our father. Even more God is our mother. God does not want to hurt us, but only to do good for us, all of us. If children are ill, they have additional claim to be loved by their mother. And we too, if by chance we are sick with badness and are on the wrong track, have yet another claim to be loved by the Lord. With a mother’s love the living God keeps vigil through the long night of war, trying everything to break the violent fever and bring about peace.”

And John Paul II again:

“The hands of God hold us up, they hold us tight, they give us strength. But at the same time they give us comfort, they console and caress us. They are the hands of a father and a mother at the same time…. The father who embraces his lost son is the definitive icon of God…. The merciful father of the parable has in himself …. all of the characteristics of fatherhood and motherhood. In embracing the son he shows the profile of a mother.”


Perhaps on this 10th memorial of September 11th, the words of John Paul I are particularly appropriate: “With a mother’s love the living God keeps vigil through the long night of war, trying everything to break the violent fever and bring about peace.” This image along with that of God’s compassion as a mother’s womb help us to recognize along with Bernard of Clairvaux that while God “cannot suffer, he can suffer with.”  God suffers with his people, and he suffers with us today.  Today in his compassion he attempts to bring to rebirth into eternal life through his womb all those who died on September 11, and today he keeps vigil like any mother watching over a sick and fevered child through a long night. Today God “suffers with.”

8 Responses to Stand or Kneel; God Our Mother; 9/11

  1. ThereseRita says:

    Sounds like the Diocese of Berkeley is getting to you.
    If my kneeling during the Consecration is a “Sign of Contradiction”, then my fellow parishioners had better be prepared to feel contradicted. Unless the Diocese refutes the fact that the Bread = God’s Body & the Wine = God’s Blood at the Consecration, then WHAT OTHER RESPONSE CAN THERE BE besides kneeling??
    Scripture tell us that, eventually, every knee shall bow…so I will kneel now in recognition & honor & joy in front of the Jesus my Savior. Period.

    • thereseRita: when you quote scripture you might give exact references and historical interpretation, Kneeling, bowing, bending for a moment of respect is quite diffent fron long long enduring periods on knees. As matter of historical reference Council of Nicea that gave us creed also forbid as Anantama Sit (act of eternal condemnation) anyone who kneels in a church. You might do yourself a justice and do research on history of kneeling and it probably would awaken to you a complete awakening knowledge of how kneeling has been used adversly to control people and shame them.

  2. On the contrary, I’m quite comfortable here, and I would like to take seriously the prescription against individualism since that is not what the liturgy is about. Kneeling in itself is not necessarily better than standing. There is a long tradition of standing in other rites and it can be well supported in scripture. Standing can be a perfectly good response to God being present, body, blood, soul and divinity. I just wanted to get some feedback.

  3. Matthew Monnig, SJ says:

    Communities can be guilty, too, of what the GIRM says about individualism and division. Communities that choose to follow their own preferences and views over the Church’s common liturgy are guilty of individualism and division on a collective, broader scale with the Church they are part of. When a person challenges that by choosing to kneel (or use the exact language of the liturgy) in communion with the broader Church, I don’t think he is guilty of individualism and division, but only making visible (and perhaps suffering from) the division with the wider Church that the particular community has caused by following its individual views. The error and the fault lies with the community that has caused this liturgical division, not someone who unmasks it through his own courage and integrity.

    That being said, God knows what you have no control over. Pushing this matter, frankly, would accomplish little and cause you trouble that could interfere with your mission of studies to the priesthood. When I was in Berkeley, I stood with everyone else. After having promised prior to my diaconate ordination to “obey with complete docility and respect, whatever the competent ecclesiastical authorities decide with regard to… the public exercise of divine worship,” I knelt at the prescribed time when serving as a deacon. I considered that a different, specific and serious obligation arising from my ordination promises. Four years later, I still think it was the right thing to do in the situation.

  4. Again we despair at some reasoning, we are not to show individualism when praying or worshiping as a community, yet now we say “I believe” instead of “We Believe”. Why all this kneeling and changes to scripture and words of prayer. Young folks today question the god-ness of it all and with greater intellect into historical worship and religions mankind wonders at the God, that Abrahamic religions developed thru history and the God that exists for milliums before Abraham, King Melick. research into God made in image of Man or vice a versa Man made in image and likeness of God or Gods, male or female. Reason and thought brings us to question Bishops (Ordinaries) alteration of the historical governance of their territories and radical conclusions that sort of terrorize their flocks while their reasoning, from liberal western society to the adverse conclusions such as New Mexico Archdiocese, that christian and especially roman catholics begin to conclude that a global church is no longer unified and ordinaries and regular believiers can do and act in any way that pleases them no matter what church authority decides is best or better. the shades of early church indecisions is still with us in what is true or false or to be believed or not believed, acted upon and or lived out. I feel for our youth full church goers and the confusion and indecision they are being brought up to observe and practice..

  5. Thereserita says:

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that you aren’t comfortable in Berkeley…just that it sounded like it might’ve stirred up some stuff. I didn’t intend to be derogatory but I can see how it could be taken that way!
    Just got to wondering last night if you’d had a chance to watch the WYD Vigil Mass from Madrid on 8/20/11? I’m thinking of when the monstrance was unveiled after the storm & the Pope’s abbreviated remarks. A million young people who were jumping around in the rain, trying to get under cover etc immediately fell to their knees & worshiped. Nobody was forcing them. It was a normal reaction to the presence of God. That’s my only point. Maybe in some cultures, as you say, standing in the presence of God is the normal reaction but, in my experience, when I’m really aware of the Holy Spirit, I can’t stand. I have to kneel.

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