The Cult of Man

I have already referred to the fact that Communion in the hand is probably the most dramatic symbol of the gradual replacement of the cult of God by the cult of man. Prior to Vatican II the prime concern of the Church was the worship and dignity of God. Since the Council the Church has turned in upon itself; it has become preoccupied with an obsessive and unhealthy introspection. It cares little for God, little for the  unevangelized mass of mankind. It devotes its energies to changing liturgical minutiae, the hem-lines of nuns, the sanctuaries of churches, the phrasing of prayers. The symbol of this introspection is the turning round of the altars. Prior to Vatican II priest and people celebrated Mass as a united body, facing out towards the East, symbol of Christ the Sun of Justice, symbol of the Resurrection and the Second Coming. To quote Fr. Jungmann, a favourite author of the Liberals, referring to a custom firmly established by the fourth century:

          "Now the priest is standing at the altar, generally built of stone, as the leader of his people: the people look up to him and at the altar at the same time, and together with the priest they face towards the east. Now the whole congregation is like a huge procession, being led by the priest and moving east towards the sun, towards Christ the Lord." 22
      Today the worshipping community has turned in upon itself, President and People contemplate each other and seem pleased with what they see. And this process of self-contemplation has the effect of increasing the preoccupation with the dignity not of God but of the people. Every-----I repeat, every traditional sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament during the distribution of Holy Communion has been abolished. Imagine the reply a potential convert would have received had he approached a Catholic priest before Vatican II, and in most cases for some years after, and asked what special signs of reverence were used by Catholics to indicate their belief that the Blessed Sacrament is God!

      The priest would have explained that communicants knelt reverently, received the Host on the tongue, only the consecrated hands of a priest could touch It, or touch the chalice, the corporal, pall, or the purificator which came into contact with the sacred species. [The final three could be washed by religious or lay persons after having first been washed by a cleric in major orders, and the water of the first washing poured into the sacrarium, Canon 1306]. From the moment of Consecration until after the Communion of the people the priest would keep the thumb and forefinger of both hands together, to ensure that the smallest particle of a Host was never dropped.

He would then open them over the chalice while the server poured wine and water over them in a series of meticulously prescribed ablutions. Imagine, therefore, the reply of any priest you knew before Vatican II if you had suggested to him that all these signs of reverence should and would be abolished-----and yet most of the priests who would have exploded with indignation at such a suggestion have accepted the changes without protest, if without enthusiasm. Can it be seriously denied that the Church is in an advanced stage of brainwashing?

 The idea that to kneel is undignified is far from new. It was an important part of Nazi propaganda. Elizabeth Gerstner is a prominent leader of Catholic resistance to the tyranny of the "Conciliar Church" in Germany. During the war her family, like so many of the European traditionalists, were prominent in their opposition to Nazism. She herself was imprisoned at the age of twenty-one. In a recent letter to me she remembered a favourite slogan of Nazi propaganda: Ein Deutscher kniet nicht vor seinem Herrgott, em Deutscher steht vor seinem Gott. ["A German does not kneel before his God, a German stands before his God."] The National Socialist Propaganda for schools [N.S. Schulungsbriefe] issued by Dr. Goebbels' propaganda-ministry, calumniated "the Jewish corruption" of the Catholic Church [semitische Verseuchung]. The slave kneels, claimed Dr. Goebbels; Germans on the contrary are freie Menschen, free men. Equally unacceptable to Dr. Goebbels was the failure to worship in German. Well, he would find much to commend in the "Conciliar Church"!

The fact that kneeling is not usual in the Eastern rites, Catholic or Orthodox, is not relevant to the question of kneeling within the Latin rite. Eastern Catholics have their own traditional manners of expressing reverence, such as very frequent Signs of the Cross. In the West kneeling is a traditional sign of reverence-----this point is emphasized in a recent series of textbooks for Protestant children in Britain:

     "If you have lost something, and you think it might be under your bed, you kneel down to look underneath it. This does not mean anything. It is the natural thing to do. But kneeling can also be a very special symbol. In feudal times a man knelt before his overlord. He put his hands between the hands of his lord and made his oath, promising  to be a true and faithful servant. This is called paying homage. It is still done today before a king or queen. When the Queen of England was crowned in 1953, each lord of the realm knelt before her, put his hands between hers, and promised to be a true and loyal subject.

    "Kneeling down before another person is always a sign of respect for someone greater. The greatest kind of respect is called reverence. That is why it is a very ancient custom for men to kneel down before their God and worship Him. The Moslems, followers of the Arab prophet named Mohammed, do not only kneel down. They also touch the ground with their foreheads when they worship Allah, as they call God." 23

There are many precedents for kneeling in adoration in the Bible-----in the New as well as the Old Testament. 24 In Psalm 94 we read:
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King . . .
          Come let us adore and fall down:
          and weep before the Lord that made us.
What more fitting response could there be than to follow the example of the psalmist, when our very God is offered to us in Holy Communion by the consecrated hands of His priest which have just offered Him in Sacrifice?

22) J. A. Jungmann, SJ, The Early Liturgy (Notre Dame Press, 1959) p. 138.
23) N. J. Bull, Symbols, Part 2, Actions (London, 1967).
24) See, for example, 3 Kings 8: 54; Daniel 6: 10; Luke 22: 41; Acts 9: 40; Acts 20: 36.