Bowing to the altar

Discussion in 'Liturgy, and Book of Common Prayer' started by kestrel, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. kestrel

    kestrel Member

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    Should ministers bow to the altar? If not, why? Are there any binding ordinances on this issue, which ones?
     
  2. Joan Lucia-Treese

    Joan Lucia-Treese Member

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    Out of reverence and respect, I bow before the altar. For me, I am acknowledging that I am a mere mortal in need of divine guidance.
     
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  3. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    The Holy Mysteries are celebrated there. Supper, worship, thanksgiving, remembrance, and the sacrifice of praise fall on that Table. It is hallowed and consecrated by purpose, use, and blessing. Not to bow to the Table of the Lord is not to bow to the Cross. That's my opinion, anyway. :)
     
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  4. rhiannon

    rhiannon Member

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    I do not bow to the Altar as a rule because my understanding is that God is everywhere and the Altar is where the Eucharist is celebrated but God is there too but God does not have levels of importance as we put to things....?

    However with the priest we now have he has managed to sell the idea of bowing to the Altar just by his own actions as they are always slow and very deliberate but not showy or fast. He created meaning for me by doing so where as everyone else makes it look like something and nothing stuff. Like doing the Sign of the Cross, that people perform and sorry that is how I view it. When Serving I conform but personally... But like I say, this priest we have now out of all the 25 years I been going has been the only Priest who simply by his own action has created any meaning for me in this act.

    But the question was about whether Ministers should and what of the consquences for not doing so if not rather than what we do ourselves. This is one of the areas I am not particularly Anglican I guess but well. As an Altar Server I bow because people want it to happen. As me I am just me because God is everywhere and I wouldn't know where to bow in all honesty without offence
     
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  5. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    rhiannon, Jesus Christ is everywhere with regards to His divine nature. With regards to His human soul, He has said He will personally come to us and we can know Him in the breaking of the bread. The altar is where that specifically happens. We can't be pantheistic or imagine God is equally everywhere, because then Baptism and the Communion wouldn't even be necessary!
     
  6. Aaytch Barton

    Aaytch Barton Active Member

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    By all means we should bow to the Lord in Heaven, but we should not bow to the Table, Altar, Cross, Font, Bible, etc. Bowing TO them is forbidden, but bowing (or kneeling) AT them is not. For example, bowing to receive the Lord's Supper or to be baptized is a good thing, but bowing to the forms and elements of these sacraments (Altar and Font), as we are merely passing by, is not good at all. As I read the Book of Common Prayer, there is much about doing things 'reverentially", but it is always in the context of honoring God and our fellow worshipper, not being frivolous or casual in our worship. I am particularly concerned about Gnostic/Arian practices which infer that God is in a particular location in the sanctuary, such as on the Table/Altar or in the Font, as happens when there are reserved eucharistic elements, "Holy Water", etc. These concepts are not in the Anglican formularies, but are rather of superstitious medieval heritage. Article XXVIII says for example "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped."
     
  7. brjohnbc

    brjohnbc New Member

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    Oh, I beg to differ. God is with us everywhere and in all places. Your statement has just suggested that the altar has become an idol and we know what scripture says about that! Bowing to the altar is an act of reverence acknowledging the fact that "God is in this place". We are acknowledging the cross on which Jesus died and perhaps there may be reserved sacrament on the altar as well .. although not usually!
    As far as the breaking of the bread ... this also happens in many places ... not just on the altar of a church. What you are speaking of is man made doctrine and tradition. As we know, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper at a dinner table ... the church teaches that the altar is that dinner table ... and that is fine, but there are many other dinner tables where the Eucharist is also celebrated. If an Agape Meal or Love Feast is held in someone's home .. the dinner table becomes the altar ... if it is held at a campsite .. the picnic table becomes the altar.
    What we have to remember here is that Jesus did not institute the building of huge edifices ... His was a plain and simple faith .. he did not restrict the celebrating of the Eucharist to the priveleged clergy ... there again, this is a man-made institution of power and control.
     
  8. rhiannon

    rhiannon Member

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    Thank you brother john as you helped put into words why I find it difficult to bow. I know the rubics but well in trueth we do not bow to the Altar per se but bow to the Blessed Sacrament which in the first part of the service isn't present as such anyway. It is why I find it hard to know where to specfically bow though I do so as a Server because that is what is expected, but in my heart what am I bowing to when we first arrive on the Altar itself? Some may well think it it the Altar they are bowing to but strictly it is the Sacrament isn't it? We bow when the Priest takes the Sacrament out of the 'safe' which is ahead of the Altar and I am sure that it is that we bow to rather than the Altar. It is another one of those difficult things because everyone has done so for years, and strictly as me, I really do not bow because I do not know what it is about and see it as something the devout like to do. I can honestly say as I said before that out of all the 25 years I been going this priest has shown me by his own actions the meaning of the bow and he is totally unaware of that because I haven't said anything to him but he shown me 'respect' for it and I do mean to watch to see if he bows whenever he crosses the pathway and I think he does on the Altar but whether he does at the back of the church because really if we were bowing to the sacrament even, whenever its in place we should bow every time we pass or something? I don't know and its why I don't bow:blush:
     
  9. brjohnbc

    brjohnbc New Member

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    Dear to Christ riannon ... thank you for our heartfelt reply. I applaud you for your honesty.
    Far too often we follow along blindly, being led by the proverbial nose ring ... I don't believe that is what Jesus would expect from us. It sounds to me like you have a pretty good handle on why or why you don't bow or cross yourself. I grew up High Anglican .. but it is only the past number of years that I have begun to think about why I do things the way I do. Far to often we just "follow the pack" because that is what is expected of us. I have no problem with speaking my mind and as a Monk ... that gets me into trouble more times than enough.
    If I may suggest, take some time, not only to think about what your doing ... but pray about how you are being respectful of your church and it's clergy and give thanks to God for allowing you to serve in the Church. Don't bow or cross yourself because it is the right thing to do .. do it because you Love the Lord and want to show your reverence and respect. The altar and all those things sitting on it are sympols of God's Love .... Give thanks and do it as an act of humility and with a loving heart.
    May you be Blessed in all things.
     
  10. Symphorian

    Symphorian Well-Known Member

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    See Church of England Canons Ecclesiastical of 1640 - Canon 7:

    "We therefore think it very meet and behoveful, and heartily commend it to all good and well-affected people, members of this Church, that they be ready to tender unto the Lord the said acknowledgment, by doing reverence and obeisance both at their coming in and going out of the said churches, chancels or chapels, according to the most ancient custom of the Primitive Church in the purest times, and of the Church also for many years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth."

    I don't think this appears in current Canons, however we are expected to give reverence to the name of Jesus:

    Canon B9 (Of reverence and attention to be used in the time of divine service.)

    "They shall give reverent attention in the time of divine service, give due reverence to the name of the Lord Jesus and stand at the Creed and the reading of the Holy Gospel at the Holy Communion..."

    Whilst personally I always bow towards the Altar, I have no objection to those who choose not to. The 1549 BCP says:

    " As touching, kneeling, crossing, holding up of handes, knocking upon the brest, and other gestures: they may be used or left as every mans devocion serveth without blame."

    This sums up my personal view.
     
  11. rhiannon

    rhiannon Member

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    Hello
    I do what is right on the Altar because of out of what is wanted but in my own life I don't bow I don't geneflect I don't do sign of the cross or anything per se because that is not how I view God in my every day life. It doesn't make me any less disrespectful because I have seriously thought it through. But I will say I don't pray in such terms as thus. My prayer pattern now is simply just being with God, not expecting anything, other than wanting to feel His Presence. It is that simple. I do not use prayer to explore or anything. I never did and struggled with the whole concept of prayer for 25 year till this priest came along and showed me how to just simply be with God. I simply love this prayer and I won't continue to struggle with other prayer. So am not being rude by saying I won't pray and leave it at that but explain to you that, that form of prayer has always been evasive for me and won't go back to trying it.
    God is always here and to be different in church to my daily life is odd to me having thought it through enough before... God sees me all the time so to show an image that really isn't me wouldn't be me to do. Whether I'm stood at the bus stop or in the kitchen or in church I am me. My language does change but only in so far as with the Priest I can really say things in a langauge I can express whereas very few other people hear me really express. Admittedly that is written down language but he is more likely to see the real me rather than what the others see because I can be just me with him. I do not do the showy thing. I behave on the Altar because of being in a team but thats it. It my choice and I like God seeing I am me wherever... no offence
     
  12. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Bravo, Symphorian. That's what I personally needed to hear right now. It's Orans time! :D
     
  13. rhiannon

    rhiannon Member

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    you do what is comfortable for you to do and if you find it comfortable you will work out your own routine. If you are like me and do not find it a part of you then you choose not to do so. No one should be judging another for their choice because really that is between God and the individually:)
     
  14. historyb

    historyb Active Member

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    Where I go to Mass our Priest do. We also make the sign of the cross
     
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  15. The Hackney Hub

    The Hackney Hub Well-Known Member

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    I understand and appreciate the sentiment behind the action. However, I do not use it because I believe it can imply an un-Anglican theology of presence in the Eucharist, which I am determined to not encourage. It can also easily become superstitious, i.e. I have seen Episcopal priests and laymen who will not move about the sanctuary, or even go to the bathroom, without bowing towards the altar. If one is inclined to use this action, I'd prefer a liturgical use of it, i.e. only at the beginning and end of the service, not every time one approaches the table.
     
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  16. Patrick Sticks

    Patrick Sticks Member

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    I think most of the good points have already been raised, but I was asked about it the other week, and it struck me that the value of bowing (and kneeling and crossing yourself etc.) is that even if one is doing it almost unthinkingly, at least they can't be doing it dishonestly. Well, except intentionally dishonestly, of course, but then they're not a believer and it becomes a bit of a tangential to the question of believers bowing...

    So there is some value of gestures as witness; if they prompt the question 'why?' then you can explain, and whilst words and thoughts can be wrong, dishonest, misleading and confusing (as I think we can all appreciate here!) at least I know that when I take a few seconds as I cross the church to give a nod to God, there's at least one thing I'm doing which is still marks me out unambiguously as clinging to the faith, even as my mind is whirling with various other problems.
     
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  17. rhiannon

    rhiannon Member

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    Like I said before I personally don't actually know where to nod to when nodding to God because He is everywhere. Okay I know the rubics but my faith doesn't require me to be that pure I was talking about in the last paragraph. My faith just requires me to believe in God a childlike believe because I have fnally understood what simplistic faith means for me and the rest is community worship rather than what my faith is off?
     
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  18. Adam Warlock

    Adam Warlock Well-Known Member

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    We do also
     
  19. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I like what Symphorian quoted from the 1640 canons: we bow when we enter and leave the church.
     
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  20. Maid Marie

    Maid Marie New Member

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    I am a lifelong member of the Church of the Nazarene. We don't really have much emphasis or teaching about bowing, crossing etc as a show of reverence for Jesus. But this past Sunday when I was playing at an Episcopal church, I noticed the servers at the altar bowing at certain times. It left a strong impression on me. Then I went to my Nazarene church [which recently had a big blow up over an unhealthy issue] and noticed that the sense of being in God's presense was utterly absent by their actions in the sanctuary as well as the way so many of them acted over that issue. I started pondering what it would be for my church if more of us viewed God as actually being with us, and shown through ritual and treatment of others, maybe we'd be more conscious of sin and how our actions affect others.

    Just my ponder and prayer for the week...
     
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