Why I Bow

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Recently, I’ve had some questions regarding why I bow at certain parts of the liturgy namely at the part of the Nicene Creed where we say “He came down from Heaven and became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man” and when the name of Jesus, the Son, or Trinity is mentioned.  On the first, we do it to honor the incarnation, the coming of God’s Great Love in the Divine Person of Jesus the Christ.  Historically, this has been done since, well, we can look up records of it being done.  Secondly, it’s a reminder to ourselves to mentally ‘bow our hearts’ in honor of our Great King.

On the second, I bow my head, not as profoundly as in the Creed, at the mention of Jesus, the Son, or the Trinity, as a way of showing honor to, again, our Great King.  When I am fully vested, I will remove my biretta or zuchetto and bow.  For those ordained, here are some great tips on the wearing of the biretta.

Please note, this is more than just following a rubric, as Catholics, we believe that the material, the mental, and the spiritual are all deeply connected to form a complete and holistic worship of God. We are not dualists, brothers!  We don’t believe that God is suddenly more impressed with us because we bow, or genuflect, or cross ourselves.  We do, however, believe that these acts are helpful to make us present of what we do in worship.  Again, all that we do, we do to show honor and worship of the Holy Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit– and to all those who God has blessed us with as examples and ‘prayer partners’ like the Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, the Saints, our Bishops, and our Priests.

Below I found a great little resource from Fish Eaters on Posture and Gesture

 

Bow of the head

How:

Simply lower your chin toward your throat and hold a moment

When:

  • When you pass by a Church, bow your head and make the Sign of the Cross to honor the Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle.
  • Any time you hear the Name “Jesus” (note that “Christ” is His title, meaning “Annointed One”; there is no need to bow the head at just the mention of the word “Christ”). Men should remove their hats and bow their heads when passing a church or when His Name is spoken; this practice is for both inside and outside of Mass. All Catholics bow their heads at these times (yes, if you’re having a casual conversation with someone on the subway and you pass a church or mention His Name, you actually are supposed to bow your head, removing your hat if you are a man). 1
  • Cross yourself and bow the head when the priest and the Crucifer walk down the aisle before and after Mass. After Mass, as the priest leaves the Altar, it is also customary to pray for him. (Some make a profound bow instead at these times)
  • Not commonly known and practiced: any time you hear “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (or “Holy Spirit”)” mentioned together; any time you hear the name of Mary; and, during Mass, when the name of the Saint in whose honor the Mass is being celebrated
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