To Genuflect, or Not To Genuflect…

When genuflecting during the Nicene Creed, you will see some pastors arise after the words “…and was made man,” and some continue the action all the way to the point at which is said: “…he suffered and was buried.” The argument of the latter is typically that one should remain kneeling throughout the humiliation of Christ, rising just before his exaltation begins. I believe this misses the point of genuflecting during the Creed. When someone genuflects, or bows profoundly during this part of the Creed, isn’t one simply acknowledging the mystery of the incarnation? So, the action begins during the words “and was incarnate…” so that the knee is touching the floor when the words “…and was made man” are spoken. The point of genuflecting is not, in my opinion, to acknowledge his humiliation, but rather the fact that God became man. Luther’s lectures on the Gospel of John would seem to confirm that this was at least his attitude.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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7 Responses to To Genuflect, or Not To Genuflect…

  1. teechrlady says:

    That’s how it’s done in the Catholic church so I’d guess that’s the way Luther did it.

  2. I bow beginning with the words “came down from Heaven” and rise at the words “made man.” I know I shouldn’t be worried about what others do, but it honestly bothers me that most people I know wait to bow until the words “was made man.” To my way of thinking, this fails to fully confess the fact that the incarnation happened in the historical event described in the Creed when Christ came down from heaven and was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the Virgin’s womb. The words “was made man” simply highlight the fact that through this earthly and physical conception, Christ took upon Himself our human nature. It is, in my opinion, also an important pro-life statement to emphasize in our liturgical posture that the coming down from Heaven and being conceived in the Virgin’s womb is the point at which this miraculous event happened, just conception is also the point at which each of us was “made man.”

  3. Chad Myers says:

    In the Catholic missal, it says to bow or genuflect during the entire statement (Nicene Creed): “born of the Virgin Mary and became man” or, the more proper (traditional) translation about to take effect in 2011 (thank God for Pope Benedict — turning back the liberal assault on Catholicism started after Vatican II; no Christian sect is unaffected by the assault of modern liberal Christian theology unfortunately):

    “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
    of the Virgin Mary,
    and became man.”

  4. Carl Vehse says:

    “To my way of thinking, this fails to fully confess the fact that the incarnation happened in the historical event described in the Creed when Christ came down from heaven and was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the Virgin’s womb.”

    If you are bowing while confessing this part of the Nicene Creed, how do you know that most people are not bowing at the same time. It’s sort of like saying you close your eyes while praying at church, but observe that most people don’t.

    But more disturbing is the misuse of an adiaphoron to claim that a Christian not following that adiaphoron “fails to fully confess” the Nicene Creed he is confessing. This misuse is prime pharisaical pietism.

  5. Mr. Rick Strikert,

    You fail to note my confession: “I know I shouldn’t be worried about what others do, but it honestly bothers me…”

    I am wrong to be concerned about what others are doing. I was ashamed to confess it. At the same time, I am explaining why I believe that bowing at the times I do makes the clearest confession.

    You seem confused about how I could notice what others are doing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t normally bow (or even stand upright) for extended periods with my eyes closed. I have tried, but it causes me to get dizzy and sway. Therefore, when I bow my eyes are fully open, and I can easily see that those behind and beside me are not bowing. I am blessed with excellent peripheral vision, which curses me with seeing more than I need to. Then, when I rise at the words “and was made man” it is unavoidably obvious that people in front of me are just starting to bow, and it is equally clear to my 20/20 vision that they continue to bow until the words “He rose again.”

    Pharisees and pietists believe this things earn merit. I think no such thing. Your accusation is, therefore, nothing but an ad hominem attack.

    You might ask: “Why, then, don’t you just bow when everyone else does?” Answer: Because regardless of the above mentioned distraction, I am MORE concentrated on what I am believing and confessing than what others are doing (which should not concern me). It’s called “discipline.”

  6. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Wow–didn’t realize I had this many comments.

    I think it sort’ve depends on whether you bow or genuflect. If you are just bowing, then you would begin to bow at the words “and was incarnate…and was made man” at which time you rise. Same with genuflecting. The whole phrase is a description of the Incarnation. But the point of my post was that genuflecting/bowing during the Nicene Creed is not for the purpose of acknowledging his humiliation (in which case you would remain kneeling for the words “and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried…” I have seen some clergypersons kneel for that whole phrase.

  7. janine bryant says:

    I came to LCMS from Episcopal Church and continued to do the things, liturgically speaking, that I grew up doing, i.e. bowing at the “incarnatus” and making the sign of the cross at the beginning and at blessing and at the end of the creed, and on the forehead, lips, and chest at the Holy Gospel. A few older members (longer timed members–I am older!), make the sign of the cross as well. It makes me glad. I saw these things slowly disappear from my old church’s liturgy. Sad. I find, with gladness, that the Lutheran service books contain propers, graduals, tracts, etc. whereas in the days of common prayer the priest had to “bootleg” those parts of the liturgy from an old Roman missal! Lutherans have never left the liturgy it seems to me. It is to me, the orthodox church.

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