10 September 2022


 There is a particular, particularly Anglican, liturgical posture; which I suspect may have originated in the practical arrangements of 'box pews'. The person ... probably lay ... exhibiting this posture must sit firmly in his or her place (buttocks, if the posture on show is to be authentic, may never under any circumstances leave the wooden seat) and must lean forward, burying face either in hands or head gear. This posture in not even varied when the celebrant rather pointedly invites the plebs sancta Dei to confess their sins, "meekly kneeling upon your knees".

Dom Gregory Dix, in a noted passage, alluded to this picturesque peculiarity. In 1933, deemed to be the centenary of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, an entertaining old gentleman, Professor 'Nipper' Williams, had invented the notion of a 'restrained ' Catholicism, neither Roman nor Byzantine, but 'Northern or 'Nordic'.

After Dix published the following satirical paragraph mocking Nordic Catholicism, it is said that 'Nipper' never spoke to him again.

"One can almost see these mystical and polygamous freemen at thir simple devotions, and catch the rustle of their golden beards as they bend forward to breathe unsuperstitious prayers into their winged casques, seated on damp logs beneath the grey and weeping dome of heaven."


Kathleen1031 said...

I think I understand your meaning, that people do not kneel on their actual knees, but only lean forward. In attending the Novus Ordo this is seen much more than at the Vetus Ordo. At the Vetus Ordo there is actual kneeling, unless one is infirm.
Then again, our highest model has been Francis, who never found it necessary to kneel for Christ.

Expeditus said...

Isn't it known as 'the Protestant slouch'?

Shawn said...

When I was in third grade at a parish school here the States, my teacher Mrs. Mayfield called that posture in church a "3 point landing" and that it was lazy and irreverent. Now, we were not in Anglican box pews but instead those slightly glorious blonde oak Catholic pews of the 1950s, but it always stuck. It's seems to me tho, that if there just wasn't room or no kneelers/cushions, such a posture is perfectly fitting in a true attempt to kneel in humility, adoration, and praise. Situational considerations... Not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Of course... If you have the space, the equipment, and the ability, get on your knees before you God and King of All!

armyarty said...

This reminds me of an exchange between Rumpole and Claude Erskine-Brown meeting in a cathedral.

Bfbpuzzled said...

The no kneel kneel is widely practiced in the west of Scotland, I tend to be conspicuous by kneeling properly.
. In my childhood parish the pews are so close together that it is impossible to sit for modern sized people, it was built by and for Irish immigrant coal miners who were smaller on average than moderns. It is extremely busy, there have been many hundreds of new houses built in the parish and the School is full. The school is the only one in the area and it is dedicated to the Holy cross

Rubricarius said...

I do not think Fr Hunwicke is referring to the '3 point landing' but rather to a peculiarly Anglican praxis whereby the person's feet are firmly on the floor, fully seated on the bench, yet bring their right hand to their forehead and then bend forward often touching the back of the pew in front with their hand.

The last time I saw it was at my uncle's funeral back in the mid-90s when everyone seemed to do it on entering a pew.

Moritz Gruber said...

This may be... similar... to the "kneel at ease" position as I call it: kneels down to the kneeler, "I intend to be kneeling in prayer", but the buttocks do not leave the bench. Sometimes, when there is no bench, there's even a little stool especially for the purpose. Without one, one would sit on one's heel, but that is painful after a while.

Used in situations like:
"It's Mass, and not the Gospel, on the one hand, but at the moment we hear a lesson, so a sitting matter on the other hand". "It's the offertory, I'll still have time to really kneel when the Canon comes." "I really would like to kneel, but I'll be friendly enough not to breathe into the ear of who is sitting, yes alas he is sitting but who am I to judge, right in front of me". "We are doing a long period of Eucharistic Adoration. I will really kneel when [in case of Adoration led by prayer leaders] someone is reading the Gospel, or when I have a pressing petition to make, or the like; and of course for the Blessing."

And the like.

I rather tend to think this is legitimate liturgical development.

Simon Cotton said...

Is it not known as 'The Anglican Squat'?

Oliver Nicholson said...

Where do you stand on the use of misericords ?

From Fr. Khouri said...

Well, now there really is a "Nordic Catholic Church" based in Norway. It is made up of former "high church" Lutherans who rejected women ministers and woke theology. They have valid Orders and are in communion with the Polish National Catholics. (That Church has valid Orders from the Old Catholics of Utrecht before they went weird and is based in Scranton, PA).