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Henrik wrote:

Hi, guys —

Laudetur Jesus Christus!

  • Why do Roman Catholics kneel on Sundays if this is supposed to be a day of joy and not a day of penitence and fasting?

Canon XX of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea give us a good reason not to kneel:

"Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord's Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing."

  • Why then kneel on Sundays?


  { Why do Catholics kneel on Sunday when the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea says to stand? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Henrik —

Thanks for the question.

According to the rubrics of the Novus Ordo, or Mass of the Ordinary Form, we do pray standing.

We pray standing during the following prayers:

  • the Penitential Rite/Prayer
  • the Gloria
  • Our Creed, and
  • the Our Father

As we go from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we kneel more because through the ministerial priesthood, the priest transubstantiates wheat bread and grape wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Himself.

At Nicaea, the Church was in its infancy and the Church was laying down a discipline or custom for the whole Church to follow. As the faith was passed on from generation to generation, and the human Church grew in knowledge and wisdom, traditions and customs changed over time.

Over many centuries of history, the Church has changed its customs, especially during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, to require the faithful to kneel more out of a reverence for the consecrated Eucharist. This is especially true during the Institution Narrative where the accidents of the bread and wine, meaning the taste, touch, smell etc., remain, but the substance, the thing that keeps the unleavened wheat bread and grape wine together, changes.

For this reason, besides the other times during the liturgy of the Eucharist where the faithful are required to kneel, the Church also gives all the faithful the option to kneel to receive the Eucharist because we are not just receiving wheat bread nor drinking grape wine, though this is what our senses tell us. Our Catholic faith tells us we are receiving the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Though kneeling for penitential or fasting reasons is good, we knee at Mass out of reverence to what we are receiving or will receive, not for penitential or fasting reasons.

I hope this answers your question.


Eric replied:

Henrik —

What Nicea said has to be understood in context. At the time, kneeling was seen primarily as
a form of penance, i.e., an expression of sorrow for sins. That was incompatible with Sunday because, being a mini-Easter, Sunday is a day of joy. It would not do to be constantly sad; one needs a break from weeping over one's sins.

Customs changed in the West, however, and kneeling came to be seen, following civil custom,
as a form of obeisance or honor given to Christ, especially in the Eucharist. It was a way of acknowledging Christ present in the Eucharist. As one kneels before one's civil lord, one knelt before the King of Kings. This does not violate the principle of Nicea.

Also, the precept of Nicea was a disciplinary canon. The Church is free to change its disciplines, even those decreed by ecumenical councils.


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