bowing to the altar

Discussion in 'Questions?' started by Rexlion, May 5, 2019.

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Do you bow toward the altar?

  1. not usually or never

    1 vote(s)
    5.3%
  2. yes, I bow toward the altar

    14 vote(s)
    73.7%
  3. yes, plus I bow every time I hear the name of Jesus

    4 vote(s)
    21.1%
  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Active Member

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    When I grew up in the RCC, we were taught to genuflect before entering the pew and again when leaving it. This was a sign of reverence for the (alleged) Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the altar's tabernacle under the accidents of bread. If the Host were displayed in the Monstrance, we were to get down on both knees in adoration. Due to this, the church sanctuary was kept extremely quiet (whispers only) before and after mass.

    Later in life, in Protestant churches, the altar was seen as merely a raised platform for folks to have a better view of the pastor or of whoever/whatever was to be seen or heard, plus a place to gather around for prayer at certain times. No special reverence was shown. Instead of silence, friends greeted one another and talked freely before and after services.

    In my current (ACNA) Anglican church, I am delighted to hear wonderful, reverent singing with piano prior to the service; it really helps set the tone and get people's thoughts attuned to what is about to happen, and it doesn't distract from praying if one is so inclined. A few folks dip their fingers into the water to make the sign of the cross when entering, but I think the majority do not. What I do see almost everyone doing is bowing (either from the neck or the waist) toward the altar before entering and upon exiting their pew. My questions are, (1) why do this? and (2) will I be looked down upon if I don't do it?

    I asked one member (who, it turns out, comes from an Episcopal background, and he also bows every time the name of Jesus is mentioned) the reason for the bowing and he replied with a misquote of Romans, that it says 'every head will bow to Christ.'
    Rom 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
    But Paul seemed to be saying, in quoting Isaiah, that the day will come when everyone will acknowledge the Lordship of God and give Him their fealty. It doesn't really say anything about bowing the head.

    My issue (my hang-up?) comes from my RC upbringing, and my sensitivity to things that smack of idolatry. In my head I'm thinking, there's nothing on the altar that is more sacred or more holy than any other part of the church, and the church itself is just a man-made building (not talking about the "people" church here), so I don't feel right about bowing to it. Yet I fear that I'd stick out like a sore thumb if I don't bow... so I have been giving a little, cursory nod of the head, but my heart isn't in it.

    Any thoughts or counsel?
     
  2. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I would advise you to do what you feel most comfortable doing, Rexlion. Personally, I bow towards the altar when entering or leaving a church. However, there are no rules regarding this as far as I know in Anglicanism.
     
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  3. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    I bow toward the altar on entering and leaving my pew or walking past the altar when I am in the chancel or entering or leaving the sanctuary. I also cross myself after receiving communion and genuflect toward the altar before standing from the communion rail. I do NOT bow, kneel or genuflect TO the altar. I do all these physical expressions of reverence toward the physical place where the focus of the presence of Christ is in the celebration of the Eucharist. Although I am fully aware that Christ's presence is everywhere, I am unable physically to demonstrate my reverential attitude to Him, 'everwhere', so I choose to do so in the direction of the one place in the building where his earthly presence is most often symbolically or perhaps even literally celebrated and demonstrated.

    As with most else in the Anglican church however, you are free to do anything that does not obviously cause offense to any other normal member of your congregation.

    If our behaviour however is a departure from the norm, we should be willing to explain ourselves. On Good Friday I needed to explain to some people who might have questioned my loyalty to Christ, why I would not kiss the cross, touch or 'adore' it, during a service of 'Adoration of the Cross', a service of great antiquity. I have no objection to silently 'contemplating' the cross and its role in the Salvation of mankind but I consider kissing it or 'adoring' it to be as strange a thing to expect of people, as would be kissing the revolver of a murderer or embracing Madam Guillotine. I save all my adoration for Christ himself.
    .
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    Last edited: May 5, 2019
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  4. Symphorian

    Symphorian Well-Known Member

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    The 1549 Prayer Book said that the use of such pious gestures should be left to individual preference. (However, the 1604 Canons of the CofE did mandate bowing at the name of Jesus!)

    The practice of bowing to the Altar probably has much to do with ++Laud, a highchurchman who wanted to establish reverence, order and beauty in worship within the CofE. Bear in mind that during the reign of Edward and to a certain extent Elizabeth, Altars, or rather Holy Tables were pulled away from the east end and placed lengthwise in the Chancel rather than Altar wise against the east wall. (The intent in doing this was to deny what they saw as the Romish Doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass.) ++Laud mandated that Altars should be returned to the east end position, Altar Rails set up and that the Altar should be reverenced with a bow.

    There are lots of places within Anglican liturgies where pious gestures could be used. Having been brought up in Laudianesque High Church tradition I personally do reverence the Altar with a nod of the head (and make other pious gestures where appropriate) although many of the congregation at my church do not. The 1662 BCP mandates little in terms of body posture or pious gestures (unlike the Roman Missal or the GIRM.) In the CofE, pious gestures such as bowing, crossing, knocking on the chest etc are left to individual choice.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2019
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  5. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I view bowing towards the altar as a help to my own piety... To me it is not a question or a rule to be mandated on others, but rather something that helps me keep my faith sensible and physical and concerete, since I am in a physical and concrete body and need physical realities to focus my faith
     
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  6. Rexlion

    Rexlion Active Member

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    I appreciate the responses.
     
  7. peter

    peter Active Member

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    I bow in the direction of (probably better phrasing than bow to) the altar when I arrive, when I leave and if I go past it for some reason. I used to bow at the mention of Jesus in the liturgy, which is a nice custom, but mentions particularly in the Eucharist are so frequent that it became a distraction. I also bow at the mention of the Trinity (for instance at the Gloria Patria in Evensong).
     
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  8. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    What do we all think of instead of saying ad orientem, or bowing to the altar, we adopt Benedict XVI's formulation, of bowing to the cross, ("ad crucem")? After all the keystone of our religion is not the altar in that particular Church, but the cross, the resurrection, and redemption. That is why Benedict has proposed it.

    Trad Roman Catholics don't bow to the altar either: they bow to the tabernacle with the hosts are (I know).

    In our case, since I don't know that "bowing to" (or "in the direction") of the altar is the BEST expression for what we are doing, what do we think of that "ad crucem" posture: bowing in the direction of the cross (which is frequently on the altar anyway)?
     
  9. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I see the act of bowing (or genuflecting) as an acknowledgement of the presence of the Lord. Generally I would do so when I first arrive in the Church, and when I approach the sanctuary for communion or to read a lesson, and then when I leave. Whilst theologically I tend more to panentheism I don't feel conflicted in that the church building has been specifically reserved or set apart as a place where we acknowledge the presence of the Lord.

    That of course is not an end in itself, for we come to recognise Christ, in the reading of the scriptures, in the breaking of the bread, and in the peace in Christ which we share (sadly sometimes this third holy moment is reduced to some sort of marketplace intermission in some places), and in so doing we are being better equipped to better recognise God in the world around us and in the face of the poor.

    Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
    and with fear and trembling stand;
    ponder nothing earthly-minded,
    for with blessing in his hand,
    Christ our God to earth descendeth,
    our full homage to demand.​
     
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  10. JoeLaughon

    JoeLaughon Active Member Anglican

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    I bow simply because even if I do not believe in transubstantiation, the Articles clearly teach a Real Presence. It is a matter of respect and reverence.
     
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  11. Rexlion

    Rexlion Active Member

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    During Eucharist, you mean, right? But what about when you first enter, or when you are leaving? No Real Presence then. Do you still bow?
     
  12. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I bow to the cross on the altar... It is the symbol and perfection of our faith
     
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  13. mediaque

    mediaque Member

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    When I first enter, I cross myself with Holy Water. I genuflect before entering my pew. I bow upon leaving my pew to proceed forward to partake. I cross myself after receiving. Upon leaving after Mass I bow and cross myself with Holy Water before I walk out the door.
     
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  14. JoeLaughon

    JoeLaughon Active Member Anglican

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    I do, when I enter the aisle. It is a matter of respect, I do not believe there is some residual presence.
     
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  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Active Member

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    All of the comments have been helpful. Thank you very much!

    I appreciate the facts that no mandate exists and that each individual is free to choose how he will express himself. I also have become conscious that bowing or genuflecting help create a reverential atmosphere, one that is more solemn and respectful than the atmosphere would be without those personal signs of piety.
     
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  16. Dave Kemp

    Dave Kemp New Member

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    I bow my head on entering and leaving the church, and went going to read and I cross myself after communion.
     
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