I asked Daniel how he liked his first Mass. He said he didn't know. "It was so strange." Daniel is in my RCIA class. He may not get baptized; he's religion shopping.
The strangest thing, according to Daniel, was the different body positions. Up, down, kneel, genuflect, shake hands, get in line for communion, bow, bless oneself--so much; how do Catholics know what to do, when? Everyone in the small group agreed with him. That's the first thing everyone noticed.
I explained what I could. Most of these gestures are for respect. We dip our fingers in the holy water and bless ourselves as we enter the church because we are reminding ourselves of our baptism. Then we may genuflect on the right knee to show our respect for God, Who is living in the tabernacle. In the pew, we kneel to pray and sit and wait for Mass to begin.
Mass begins with the ministers processing up the aisle to the sanctuary. We stand as they process by our of respect. We sit when the procession is done. We sit to listen to readings, except for the Gospel, which we stand to hear, out of respect. Then we sit to listen to the homily.
Then we reach into our pockets for the collection.
Again we kneel for a longer time as the priest consecrates the bread and wine. We then walk up to receive the consecrated Body and Blood of Jesus.
We're just about finished as we finish our personal prayers of thanksgiving while kneeling. We bless ourselves and stand while the priest recesses out.
So it's mostly respect and common sense that determines what posture to take. Besides, if you follow along in the missal, the directions tell you what to do.
What surprised me was that Daniel and some of the others said they were a little frightened. The procession scared them. They wondered what the heck had they gotten themselves into. I think it was just too foreign to them. I pointed out that a bride processes down the aisle. And when you graduate? They agreed; they just weren't expecting it.
Pray for these RCIA candidates, please, especially Daniel.