9 April 2011


How about acquiring a new habit as your special discipline this Passiontide; I mean, getting into a habit you haven't been in before and then continuing it for the rest of your life.

Here is a possibility: get into the way of bowing your head reverently at the Holy Name of Jesus (and another name as well: vide infra). My apologies to those of you who do this already; but my impression is that very few people do, even among the pious, even among the pious clergy. Yet it is even prescribed in the old Canon Law of the Patrimonial Church of England to be done by clergy and laity alike, and this order was explicitly retained in the twentieth century revision of Canon Law. And, of course, it was laid down in the old Ritus Celebrandi Missam: 'When the Name of Jesus is named, [the celebrant] bows his head ... and similarly whenevever the Name of blessed Mary is named, or that of the Saints of whom the mass is said ...'. I try to do this, not only liturgically, but also when I hear the Name of our Saviour uttered lightly as an expletive.

A great Bishop of Exeter, John Grandisson, made the encouragement of this the first thing he did when he arrived in Exeter in 1328 after having been 'provided' to the see by his frienrd and patron, that great pontiff John XXII. In his decree Ineffabilis Misericordiae Matris he wrote 'The Mother of Mercy - a mercy beyond all words - has endlessly shown favour with ready hand to the whole human race, from the beginning of our redemption; favours that will last for ever.Having these always before our eyes, and not forgetting how often she has helped, cared for, protected and excused us before her Son, and has graciously reconciled us to herself, we desire with all our heart to entice and enflame the minds of others to her love and service.' He went on to remind his cathedral clergy of the 'very great indulgences which we know Popes Urban IV and John XXII graciously to have granted' and to add to these a new indulgence of his own to all his clergy who 'sweetly call to mind the Name of her Son Jesus Christ or of Mary, when it is sung or read, by bowing their head.'

Recent reforms restored the festivals of the Names of Jesus and Mary to the (new) Roman Rite. You know it makes sense!


St said...

Also in the new order of Mass the bowing of the head at the names of Jesus and Mary is prescribed.

Joshua said...

A most excellent and salutary practice.

Likewise, one bows the head at the name of the saint of the day. Members of religious orders do the same at the name of their founder (ex. gr. St Dominic or St Francis).

Rubricarius or another will confirm the finer points of head bowing: that the bow for the Holy Name of Our Lord is deeper than that for Our Lady or a Saint.

The Moderate Jacobite said...

I see bowing one's head when Our Lord's name is used as an expletive to be a small act of reparation for the offence.

I would also add that the head is bowed at the mention of the three persons of the Trinity.

motuproprio said...

Believe it or not, the E&W hierarchy do sometimes get things right!

Statement on the Name of God
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament has issued guidance to Bishops’ Conferences on the translation of the ‘Name of God’ in texts for use in the liturgy. The directives expand on the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam and note that the Hebrew Tetragrammaton YHWH, Yahweh or Jehovah, has in the tradition of the Church always been translated as ‘Lord’. The Bishops’ Conference welcomes the attention that the Congregation has given to the due reverence we owe to the name of God. It is also worth noting that the use of Yahweh is highly offensive to the Jewish people.

These directives do not affect our current liturgical texts in use at Mass and other liturgies. Nor do they affect the forthcoming translation of Roman Missal, 3rd edition, which is being studied and voted on by the bishops, and is being translated following the guidance of the Holy See found in Liturgiam Authenticam.

The directive that the name Yahweh is not to be read, sung or prayed in the Liturgy or at other times of prayer affects more than the official texts of the liturgy. The name is found in some liturgical songs and parishes are required to refrain from using these texts. Publishers of Catholic liturgical material in England and Wales are asked to either omit or amend any texts that use the term. Care should be taken when a reading is taken directly from a Bible (such as the Jerusalem Bible) to replace the word Yahweh with Lord where it occurs. The term should also be avoided in composed texts such as the Prayer of the Faithful.

It is part of our Catholic tradition that we offer reverence not just with the words on our lips but through actions such as a bow of the head. This bow is made whenever the Holy Trinity are named together, for example, in a doxology, and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honour Mass is being celebrated. Though the document from the Holy See is concerned with language and translation it provides an opportunity to remind ourselves of the reverence owed to the name of God both in worship and in daily life.

Bishop Arthur Roche
Bishop of Leeds
Chairman, Department for Christian Life and Worship

Joshua said...

Of course, when glorifying the Three Persons one bows not just the head but the upper body, at least in more traditional religious orders...

Do Anglicans still turn East (toward the altar) to do so?

Joshua said...

As to the statement above from the E&W hierarchy, it was my understanding that, traditionally, one only bowed the head at the name of the Saint whose feast it was - so that at a Votive Mass of St Hedwig, for instance, one would not bow the head at her name, it not being her feast day, but just a feria upon which a Votive could be said. Is this right?

RichardT said...

Thankfully this is something I have always done, having had it drummed into me as a good habit at primary school in the 1970s. However we were only told to do so at the name of Jesus; perhaps dropping Mary was the first onset of modernism?

And I do enjoy watching the more traditional clergy raising their birettas at the name of Jesus.

But is the name of Jesus now used more commonly (particular in the sermon) than it used to be when observace of head-bowing was more common?

My feeling is that even in my youth, terms such as Our Saviour, Our Lord or even Christ would have been used, and that to refer to Him by name would have seemed over-familiar.

I have seen sermons when the frequent use of the Name of Our Lord has resulted in amusingly frequent biretta-doffing from the assistant clergy, which of course the preacher could not see because they were sat behind him.

Joshua said...

Indeed and Amen.

It always astonishes me to hear people breezily talking about Jesus this and Jesus that, as if they'd just met him down the pub, rather than with due reverence speaking of Our Divine Lord.

The Jews, after all, prefer circumlocutions when speaking of the Deity.

Figulus said...


I have heard it said that if the holy names are mentioned very often in a sermon, e.g. after the biretta has been lifted two times in one sermon, then at the third time you remove it and hold it over your heart for the remainder.

Figulus said...


Indeed, the trice holy name of the tetragrammaton may itself be a circumlocution in Aramaic or, perhaps, Hebrew.