Is a bow required prior to receiving the Eucharist while standing?

Required in the rubrics? Custom? It depends on the parish or even region of the country where I visit. Some do some don’t.

The USCCB has stated that a bow of the head is to be the sogn of respect we show to our Lord when we go up to receive him in Communion.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, #160:
“When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.”

The USCCB elaborates further:

The new edition of the General Instruction asks the Conference of Bishops in each country to determine the posture to be used for the reception of Communion and the act of reverence to be made by each person as he or she receives Communion. **The Conference of Bishops of the United States has determined that in this country Communion will be received standing and that a bow will be the act of reverence made by those receiving. **These norms may require some adjustment on the part of those who have been used to other practices, however the significance of unity in posture and gesture as a symbol of our unity as members of the one body of Christ should be the governing factor in our own actions.

Hmm. I always genuflect.

Yes. It is to show reverence to the Real Presence in the Eucharist. That acknowledgement is usually a bow or nod of the head. There are some who genuflect instead of bowing, but that is voluntary. In my diocese we may receive standing or kneeling after having made this acknowledgement of reverence before our Lord. :slight_smile:

This webpage may be outdated. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal of 2011, which is the one currently to be strictly followed in the United States, clearly states:

the norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that **Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive communion while kneeling **(congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, March 25, 2004, no. 91).

It would not be possible to deny the faithful the possibility to receive Holy Communion kneeling, for this has been the practice of the Latin Church for centuries, and remains the ordinary way to receive Holy Communion in many (most?) countries.

For those who conform to the US custom of standing, at least a bow is due as a sign of reverence. Generally, though the Tabernacle and the exposed Blessed Sacrament require a genuflection on one knee as a sign of reverence.

I’ve seen some, perhaps in order to save time, bowing to the person in front of them. Looks weird.

I still say nothing beats the communion rail (and a paten).

I usually bow when I’m behind the person receiving. I suppose it may look like I’m bowing to them, but I don’t see it that way. After all, there are people in front of us when we bow and kneel in our pews, but we’re not bowing or kneeling to them.

In my diocese, we are asked to bow in some way before reception of the Eucharist in 1 or both forms. Even when I’ve gone to Mass in other parts of my state, I do it out of habit. I am not sure if other parts of my state ask communicants to do the same.

Where is kneeling still the ordinary way to receive Communion? I’ve been to Mass in several different (mostly European) countries and never seen it. I’ve also spoken with friends from a variety of countries, and it is not the ordinary practice in their countries at this time.

I don’t remember when, but my diocese had been told of the bow as a change. It had not been done before. It was described to us as it should be a deep bow from the waist. I never heard of a simple nod of the head. The deep bow was emphasized as a way to show reverance and less than that was made to sound as if it was not enough.

We were definitely told to bow while behind the person receiving communion. Not before we receive. If I remember correctly, this is because Jesus is being received into the body in front of us. In other words, I am not simply standing in line behind another person waiting for my turn. I do the bow behind the person receiving communion and it does help to focus. Prior to this I think I sometimes got distracted as the mind tends to wander while waiting.

I do feel it is ackward bowing in back of someone, though. I worry a bit if I give enough room in front or behind while doing it, and on the way down I feel a little strange as if I am going to be looking at someone’s behind or vice-versa. So I actually don’t bend deeply out of modesty and respect for the other person’s modesty. Another weird thing is I feel as if I am imitating a Japanese greeting! But I just need to focus a moment on the why of the bow. Reading a discussion like this really helps.

I don’t notice many people bowing and I would like it if a priest brought up the posture and reason, as encouragement.

I am in California, in the Diocese of San Bernardino.

In my diocese, when the bishop was at my parish, he made an explicit instruction that he wanted us to wait until the person who was in front of us had moved before making our reverence.

Yes, I wanted to bring up that bowing is indeed something that has been borrowed from the Japanese but that would probably be better addressed in another thread on perhaps another forum.

But in the meantime, bows or genuflections, I believe, should be made toward someone with an unobstructed view of that person. Same thing when we enter or leave our pews or church, although I notice this practice has been somewhat forgotten. Yes, there are bows at the name of Jesus and parts of the Creed but that’s a little different type of respect IMO.


At every parish and/or diocesan event I have attended, where guidance regarding receiving while standing was given, we were told to give just a head nod.

Bows from the waist were always explained to be reserved for the elevations during the consecration in cases where people were standing because kneeling was impractical. (But that’s a discussion for a different thread.)

And we were specifically told that it was ideal to bow while the person in front of us was receiving. It was made very clear that this was for traffic flow because as soon as the person in front of us has received and moved aside we should be stepping up prepared to receive.

It is generally done as a sign of reverence to the Eucharist. Done in replacement of kneeling.

Yes, but where is this in the Church documents? Seems like someone should have questioned this “teaching.”

I doubt that such a thing would be in a Church document. The USCCB wants us to bow before the sacrament. The exact timing seems to be left up to the best judgment of those distributing and receiving. Those distributing communion are the ones who want to speed up the process.

It has been my understanding that all the directives about bowing versus genuflecting (when the communion setup generally favors receiving while standing) are geared toward traffic flow. That’s because traffic flow has a definite impact on the speed and rhythm of the distribution of communion when the recipients receive in queue formation. It has long been the case that the ministers of communion want to distribute communion quickly. I seem to recall that in the days when kneeling at communion rails was the only way people received that the priests would look quite displeased if a communicant did not have his tongue in position at the exact millisecond that the priest was offering communion. Once can

I guess that is part of the argument for communion rails. Traffic flow does not have nearly as much of an impact on the distribution (in contrast to the reception) of communion when people are kneeling well ahead of the time they are receiving.

That’s the other discussion. What’s really involved in genuflecting? Little known fact is that “genuflecting” is from the Latin “to bend the knee.” IOW, it doesn’t have to be to the floor unless your priest or bishop directs otherwise, and it doesn’t have to be congestive to the traffic any more than bowing, I would think.

OK. I want to see that thread! Complete with a picture of the knee-bend-only genuflection!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit