Personal Gestures

Q. What is the proper posture to assume when the priest elevates the Host during Mass? Should the worshiper gaze upon the Host with upraised head, or should he bow his head? 

A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord” (No. 1378). In most churches today, congregations kneel during the consecration, so individuals have made a primary gesture of reverence. To look at the Host, or to look down, is very much a matter of one’s personal piety.

We might remark that the celebrant elevates the Host to expose it to the congregation’s view. This suggests the liturgy extends an invitation for individuals to gaze upon the Savior. However, during Mass the congregation also proclaims, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” If we are not worthy to welcome Jesus into our homes, we are probably not worthy of raising our eyes to him.

What should become clear from these remarks is their very personal nature. The Church legislates general norms to maintain order and reflect proper respect during liturgical celebrations. Personal gestures are just that, and the Church encourages individuals to embrace and practice those they find most consoling.