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.”