Shouldn’t We Receive Communion on Our Knees?

Q: During Mass, before you receive communion, shouldn’t you be on your knees before God? Standing doesn’t seem right to me on one hand. On the other hand I want to follow current teachings. Can you shed some light?

Kneeling was once the common posture for receiving communion, and some people wonder if this is a more reverent way to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Postures and other norms for the celebration of Mass, which have changed throughout the centuries, are established by the universal Church or by the local bishops’ conference. The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that,

“The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the diocese of the United States is standing” (paragraph 160).

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has decided that standing best promotes the dignity of the liturgy and the unity of the assembly, which is essential. Consider paragraph 42:

“A common posture, to be observed by all participants, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered for the sacred Liturgy; it both expresses and fosters the intention and spiritual attitude of the participants.”

So while kneeling is a beautiful gesture of reverence for the Eucharist, and is perfectly appropriate during Eucharistic adoration or private prayer, it is best during Mass to unite yourself – in action and spirit – with the assembly. Note that the Bishop’s Conference in the United States also notes that people should not be refused the Eucharist because they kneel to receive it, but

“Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.”

Check out this video on the Eucharist from our Sacraments 101 series, Eucharist (How We Receive).