In the Extraordinary form of the Roman rite you kneel at “et incarnatus…”. That does not happen in the Ordinary form. What does the Vatican want us to do in the Ordinary form?
Which in my opinion is an unfortunate rubric.
I can’t really put into words very well why I think everyone (who can) genuflect/kneel at the et incarnatus est would do it if that was the rubric, but I do think they would.
Bowing is a more awkward movement because it takes your eyes off the people in front of you; it messes up the social dynamic of doing things together because you don’t see everyone else doing it. Seeing others doing stuff is a major part of ritual consistency. If everyone in your field of view is doing something at Mass, you are likely to do it. But if you don’t have a field of view (as in bowing) you are likely to spend half the movement peeking up and looking around to make sure everybody else is doing it. At least I do that =p. Half the time our parish decides to bow, half the time not, it seems. To add, seeing the priest do the action while you are doing it is an important aspect. That is why there is complete uniformity of people standing when the priest stands, sitting when he sits, etc. (if they are supposed to), because they can see him clearly doing it.
Furthermore, there is the fact that bowing has several degrees. Even if a “profound bow” is specified, that means little to the average person. Only someone who knows what that means in the liturgical setting can be expected to do it properly. Genuflecting is pretty much, you either do it or you don’t. It is true that some people do that little half-genuflection thing because of orthopedic issues, but I wager that because the time spent making the reverence in this context is so short, they would be better off not doing the genuflection/kneeling here in the first place if it would take too long to get back up.
I think this is, ironically, an over-complication in the OF. To add to that, there are two days of the year when you do in fact kneel/genuflect/whatever the rubric says in the OF. Some people may say that makes these days “special.” I understand the spirit of that. However I think it is very poor foresight, practically speaking, to expect this to work well and consistently. In my experience some parishes do it, some parishes don’t do it even though they’ve been reminded, some parishes don’t even mention it I guess because the priest either doesn’t know or doesn’t think it would be worth the effort. I sympathize with that latter view. Random liturgical reminders inserted in the Mass are distracting imo and they are slightly heartbreaking when they interrupt an otherwise beautiful liturgy. “Please kneel today at the ‘was made flesh.’” “Wait what?”
This does not work well: “Well let’s bow 99% of the days of the year but hey let’s kneel two days a year, yes, everyone will remember that and it will turn out splendoriously.”
Genuflection or kneeling would be an easier and much more reasonable rubric imho.
And yes, before anyone raises pitchforks, lights the pyre and calls Cardinal Mueller, the OF is valid, licit, etc., and so on, inserts-socially-mandatory-(…for-traditionalists-only…)-disclaimer-times-one-thousand, ad infinitum. . . .
Bowing is an act however, that is very frequent in the liturgy, even in the old form, especially in the Divine Office where everyone bows at the mention of the Trinity.
Although there are quite a few people who can’t see the tiny little print in the pew card and therefore miss the instructions to “bow”, there are quite a few people who do bow in our parish.
I really think this is cool, because when a large number of the people bow, even if it’s just a lower of the head, the Creed gets “quieter” at the point where we profess belief in the Incarnation and the heads are lower. It’s like a hush falls over the assembly during this phrase, and this is very profound, IMO.
BTW, I think that the people who designed and printed the pew cards should be taken to task just a little for using such tiny print on this instruction. It should have been bigger print so that it’s more obvious. Even my husband missed it, and he’s Mr. Computer Programmer Detail Obssessed Guy!
The big issue I have with bowing is what do people consider a bow? Most people just bow their heads and if you’re using the book to read the creed your head is already lowered, so now you are making no movement. Most people make no actual movement in this moment at least in every parish I’ve ever been to it’s that way.
I was just going to make this comment myself. Why does putting down a kneeler require a long pause in the Mass while you wait for the noise to die down??
I remember one Good Friday liturgy when, after about the third intercession with “let us kneel…” and listening to the kneelers drop, the priest finally said “Just leave them down! You’re going to use them again.”
Me thinks there is a bit too much looking about and judging what everyone else is doing rather than focusing on Jesus and the mystery of the incarnation and the example of Mary at this moment .
In the spirit of St Francis and our Pope Francis perhaps we should be leading more by our actions.
At our parish we can have up to 1000 people at a time some bowing at the waist some just a head bob or a slight upper body movement but the change of volume is perceptible. More importantly if you do not move you are ‘odd man out’.
God be praised for practical Shepherds.
On a complete side note . It breaks my heart when there are empty spaces in centers of pews at Easter or Christmas and people needing extra chairs in the Narthex or standing along the walls. 20 years ago we used to go to a tiny military Chapel that also was for the Protestants and the Jewish service so the Priest could not have several masses in the day to fit us all in. If you were not there 10 mins early it was SRO even at regular times of the year - Easter you had better send people 1 hour ahead to reserve seats and that was even though before starting mass the Priest would tell everyone to stand and move to the center , get shoulder to shoulder friendly with your sisters and brothers in Christ , so as to make room for others.