Due Reverence Before the Blessed Sacrament

excerpt from Book IV, Chapter XVI of

The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

   by Rev. Peter J. Arnoudt, S. J.


     To kneel or stand when receiving Holy Communion?  Pope Benedict XVI wants communicants to kneel at Papal liturgies, but some Bishops mandate standing on the grounds that standing up shows respect.  Yes, standing may show respect for human persons, but Jesus is a Divine Person.  Every knee shall bend before the Lord (see Philippians 2:10Romans 14:11).  

     As you read the following passage from the above-named book, written in 1846, bear in mind that it is a classic on traditional Roman Catholic spiritual direction, considered by many to even surpass The Imitation of Christ. 


Bishop of Oakland mandates standing, see here.   Scottish Archbishop mandates standing, see here.   Benedict XVI mandates kneeling, see here.



1.  The voice of Jesus. -  My Child, if the heavens were thrown open before thee, and if thy eyes beheld there My glory; how thou wouldst be affected by this sight!  How thou wouldst tremble with holy awe!   With what reverence thou wouldst fall prostrate!

     For, before My throne, sending forth the splendors of glory, like blazing flames and lightnings, thou shouldst behold thousands of thousands of Angels praising Me with all veneration; and, standing around the throne, ten thousand times a hundred thousand ministering to Me.

     Thou shouldst, also, behold the mighty throng of Saints, whom thou couldst not count, falling upon their faces in sight of the throne, adoring, and melting with love.

     Thou shouldst behold how everything is aglow in My presence: at one time thou shouldst perceive how, by reason of the greatness of the all-pervading reverence, there reigns a deep silence throughout heaven; at another, how the whole place resounds with the voice of its inhabitants, bursting forth and singing in unison: Amen, blessing, and glory, and wisdom and thanksgiving, and honor, and power and strength, to our God, forever and ever!

     Now, My Child, I the same, who in heaven am worshiped with such a manifestation of honor and praise, am here present in the most Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by a multitude of heavenly spirits.

     See, therefore, and consider, how mortals ought to conduct themseves toward Me.  If the very pillars of heaven tremble with awe, what should the dust of the earth do?

2.  Here, I desire reverence, here I claim honor, here I exact due worship.

     By the free choice of My Heart, I was born in a stable, and I so passed My mortal life, that I had not where to recline My head; but, when I was about to institute this most Holy Sacrament, I ordered to be prepared a large Supper-room furnished, to show how much I wished to be respected and honored, and worshiped in My Sacramental life.

     Taught by this, the Church has ever loved the beauty of My house, and erected, to the best of her power, magnificent temples: she has called to her aid nature, that by richness, and art, that by genius, they might adorn My chosen dwelling-places; ever full of solicitude, she has taken care that, according to the desire of My Heart, she may honor Me every way in this most august mystery, and thus testify her own love for Me.

     If thou lovest Me, My Child, yea, if thou hast faith, and by its supernal light, viewest My Majesty here veiled, and all that visibly and invisibly surrounds Me, thou wilt surely ever exhibit here supreme reverence.

     Thou wilt not here appear before Me among the Angels, except inwardly and outwardly full of recollection and veneration; thou wilt show interiorly and exteriorly naught save piety and devotedness, reverential awe, and love.  

The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is published by TAN Books, see here.


NOTE:  In response to this article on "Reverence," I received the following in an email from Jeanette Salerno (www.padrepiosworld.com).  I think it is a beautiful description of what the Church once was, and what we have lost.


"Such unimaginative Archbishops, to have written those letters against kneeling. So this is why kneelers are disappearing from the churches?!

I look back to pre-Vatican II days. There were beautiful marble railings across the width of our church altar. Communicants stood in line, moving in a stream down the center aisle. They were guided to the railing by  ushers, where they knelt on the white marble steps with pads beneath their knees. From one end of the railing to the other they knelt, with a line of standing people waiting behind them. The priests (there were at least always two) started at the center gate of the altar and gave out Communion going down the line to the end of the right section or left section of the railing. They were always accompanied by an altar boy with a paten. As the people received Communion, always in the mouth, of course, they left the railing and returned to their seats, and those behind them stepped forward and knelt in their place. When the priest reached the end of his section, he turned and went back to the gate and started again.  On the other side of the altar gate the same thing was happening. 

It always had the feeling of anticipation, a feeling of awe as through the corner of my eye I could see the priest getting closer and hear his whispering voice . . .Then it was my turn. It truly, truly was as though a great spotlight came upon you...I remember feeling the warmth of that spotlight...like a powerful kleig-light through which God was seeing you. . . And then the Host was upon your tongue...In those days the Host was smaller, lighter, soft and white--it had the feel of something immaculate. It melted in your mouth in almost an instant, like some small (though in reality enormous) miracle that invisibly sent the Savior to your soul. No chewing. We rose up from kneeling and made our way back to our pews and knelt, covering our faces in prayer and thanksgiving, Jesus within us . . .

Railings and kneeling are gone now, the still moment as you knelt and awaited the Host, gone. When standing replaced kneeling, out went a moment to pause and anticipate Our Lord's arrival, to see Him approaching and be ready. . .

Now, aware of all that was lost, bowing and genuflecting has been instituted, to try and recapture the  immensity of the moment... But there is no railing to help the elderly place themselves, and they can’t genuflect unless they hold on to the pew beside them.

Yes, we "stand" out of respect when someone important enters a room. We used to stand when a priest entered the classroom. We stand when giving a ‘standing’ ovation or greeting at the theater or opera. So many have been quoting Marshall McLuhan these days because he called attention to a simple truth. the medium is the message...Is our 'standing' when receiving Communion giving Jesus no more than the respect or secular worship an actor gets? 

The answer is in many places such as The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,  But the beautiful words at the Birth of Jesus Christ Our Savior in the Christmas carol Cantique de Noel, reach the depths of our souls as 'standing' never can.  They were written for midnight Mass by the French poet Placide Cappeau, at the request of a parish priest. "People kneel down, wait for your deliverance..."

Or in an English version, Fall on your knees...O hear the angel voices..."


 Controversial, bold and thought-provoking, the above book is available in print or Kindle format.



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Frank Rega is the author of:  Padre Pio and America,
St. Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims,

The Greatest Catholic President: Garcia Moreno of Ecuador
  Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - Journeys in the Divine Will 
vols. 1 and 2
Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - volume 3 in preparation
 The Truth about Padre Pio's Stigmata and Other Wonders of the Saint
Vatican II, Evolution, and Medjugorje: Hubris, Heresy, and Mystery 

www.frankrega.com      www.sanpadrepio.com   www.thepoverello.com    www.lifeofluisa.com

This page was last updated on 02/12/14