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Full Version: Kneeling and brief genuflecting during the liturgy in the Middle Ages
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I've been looking more and more into the liturgies and common practices of the Middle Ages and it seems like kneeling was very uncommon except during the later Middle Ages during the Consecration. Brief genuflections may have been more common, being similar to the Eastern prostrations. But it sure seems like standing during the entire liturgy was definitely a thing until very late in the Middle Ages and into post-Trent when the pew became far more common.

Any thoughts?
(08-11-2016, 11:57 AM)Farmer88 Wrote: [ -> ]I've been looking more and more into the liturgies and common practices of the Middle Ages and it seems like kneeling was very uncommon except during the later Middle Ages during the Consecration. Brief genuflections may have been more common, being similar to the Eastern prostrations. But it sure seems like standing during the entire liturgy was definitely a thing until very late in the Middle Ages and into post-Trent when the pew became far more common.

Any thoughts?

It wasn't as common for churches to have pews back then.  It's easier for a large crowd to stand in a room than it is for them to kneel in a room.  It wasn't as common back then for churches to have pews, at least not for everyone.  With everyone at Mass, it likely would have been too crowded for the whole congregation to kneel, so the practice hadn't occurred to them yet.  Also, the floors must have been filthy.  While I don't think they had the same standards of hygiene that we have today, I imagine at least at some point they realized that floors are dirty.
I'm not sure that it didn't exist because there wasn't the room to kneel, otherwise they would have ensured that room existed to kneel. The entire practice and the theology behind it wasn't very established.

And I knew pews were barely a thing back then either. It would have been like walking into many Orthodox churches, the only seats were for the elderly or those unable to stand for the entire liturgy, which would have taken longer than an hour back then. It's why choir stalls have the arm supports, standing for that long in one spot would be very tiring.
Some people must've been kneeling pretty early in Church history because Canon 20 of the First Council of Nicaea proscribed kneeling on Sundays during the Liturgy:

"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."
(08-11-2016, 02:21 PM)ermy_law Wrote: [ -> ]Some people must've been kneeling pretty early in Church history because Canon 20 of the First Council of Nicaea proscribed kneeling on Sundays during the Liturgy:

"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."

Interesting, I was not aware of that, so then why do we kneel on Sundays nowHuh??
(08-11-2016, 04:17 PM)Florus Wrote: [ -> ]
(08-11-2016, 02:21 PM)ermy_law Wrote: [ -> ]Some people must've been kneeling pretty early in Church history because Canon 20 of the First Council of Nicaea proscribed kneeling on Sundays during the Liturgy:

"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."

Interesting, I was not aware of that, so then why do we kneel on Sundays nowHuh??

Personally, I think that canon is a bit obscure, despite what seems to be its straightforward language. For one thing, there's the obvious datum of the Western Church kneeling, though exactly when that started I don't know. There is also the curious fact that the Russian Old Believers do full prostrations (drop to the knees, forehead and hands to the ground) every day, including Sundays and Pascha - this is not "kneeling" to them, but it is to other Orthodox. There's also the wrinkle that kneeling has a different meaning in East and West. Whereas in the West kneeling is strongly associated with reverence and adoration, it is a penitential posture in the East, which is deemed inappropriate for the Paschal joy of Easter and Sunday (the Resurrectional element of Sunday is front-and-center in the Byzantine rite at all times of the year, even during Great Lent), and is generally pretty rare in the Byzantine rite, except for Vespers on the evening of Pentecost Sunday, which is called "Kneeling Vespers" because of how notable the posture is. But then again, modern Greek Orthodox, at least in North America, kneel during the epiclesis, even on Sundays; Russian Orthodox generally insist on standing throughout the Sunday service, bowing at particular prayers. Oriental Orthodox are a very mixed bag with respect to sitting/standing/prostrating.