Should Cantor kneel after Sanctus

Question for you Cantors out there:

If you are at an Ambo for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, do you kneel after singing the Sanctus or remain standing?


I am at a lectern on the opposite side of the sanctuary from the ambo/pulpit/whatever. There is a kneeler near my chair, a few steps back from the lectern. I kneel there whenever the congregation kneels. One of the other cantors, a gentleman, kneels on the floor right at the lectern. I guess it saves a little time going back and forth. I couldn’t do that gracefully at all.

To answer your question, we all kneel after the Sanctus and again after we get up to sing the Mysterium Fidei, and again after the Agnus Dei.


Either may be acceptable. In the end it’s up to your local diocese or parish to determine.

Whenever possible we should kneel after the Sanctus according to the GIRM. Having said that I believe that it is more a situation of what is in your heart. If you have a physical impairment that would making kneeling difficult or even impossible then standing would be fine.
I am reminded of a time in our parish when we had a very holy older retired priest filled in for our pastor. As he and the very young altar server were going to the back of the church for the entrance procession the young server informed the older priest that they should genuflect before proceeding to the back. The old priest replied to the young server." I have very bad arthritic knees, do you think it would be alright if I just bowed instead?"The young server said he thought it would be fine and Mass proceeded as usual.:slight_smile:

I’m thinking of two things when asking this question:

  1. a cantor standing/kneeling/standing/kneeling/standing could become a visual distraction to what is occurring at the altar since they are in line of sight with the priest

  2. am I correct? deacons aren’t kneeling at this point, nor or concelebrants . . . so not everyone is kneeling at this point . . .

thanks again for the help on this. I’m going to be cantoring during Advent, but I don’t want to be a distraction to others. thank you.

  1. During the Eucharistic Prayer, the deacon stands near the priest but slightly behind him, so that when needed he may assist the priest with the chalice or the Missal.

From the epiclesis until the priest shows the chalice, the deacon normally remains kneeling. If several deacons are present, one of them may place incense in the thurible for the consecration and incense the host and the chalice as they are shown to the people.

  1. At the final doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer, the deacon stands next to the priest, holding the chalice elevated while the priest elevates the paten with the host, until the people have responded with the acclamation, Amen.

For parts of the EP the deacon should be kneeling. The concelebrants obviously don’t kneel because they are also celebrating the Mass.

If possible the cantor should kneel when the congregation kneels. But I have to ask, why are you at the ambo during the Liturgy of the Eucharist?

I play piano, and I don’t kneel during Mass. I can’t. I wouldn’t be able to get back up again. It would be a distraction watching me struggle and grunt. There’s no prie dieu, anyway, so I would have to kneel on a hard floor, and as much as I would love to emulate the saints and do that, well, I can’t. I would never be able to get down to that floor without a major production of grunting and grabbing onto whatever was nearby (e.g., the piano, which would probably start rolling), and then I would have to get on all fours and climb back up, kind of like a kid who has fallen at the skating rink. Not conducive to worship, right?! Picture a baby elephant at an ice rink. This would definitely detract from the attention paid to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

I think that’s why a lot of cantors don’t kneel. Their knees or other body parts are not reliable and they don’t want to call attention to themselves.

And I think that other young and strong cantors remain standing so that those who can’t kneel don’t look unspiritual or irreverent. It’s better that everyone do things the same way so that there’s unity.

Also, there are quite a few people, including young and strong people, who get dizzy when they stand up from a kneeling position. In the pews, you have a pew back to support yourself if this happens. But up in front of the nave, you have nothing, usually. You could fall. Talk about spectacle.

Yes, truly, most musicians have no wish to call attention to themselves.

I know this will make me sound like a whining crabby old lady, but I must say that those of you who don’t have physical impairments really have no idea what it’s like and I think sometimes you think that if we’d just stop being stubborn and self-centered that we could kneel if we REALLY really wanted to. Well, we can’t. So my feeling is, when you see people that aren’t kneeling, don’t judge them. Assume that there is a very good reason, probably physical, why they can’t kneel. We already feel badly enough about our physical condition, although I try to be grateful for what I have rather than resent what I don’t have. Don’t make it worse for us by “reporting us” or gossiping about our lack of reverence.

Phemie, perhaps it’s called the Lectern and not Ambo - I may be confused.

The reason I’m up there is because after singing the Sanctus, the cantor sings the Memorial Acclamation, the Our Father and the Agnus Dei. So I’m kneeling, standing to sing, then kneeling, then standing to sing, etc.

Little difference between lectern and ambo (but ambo is the more liturgical word, while lectern is the secular word–not enough of a difference to mean anything–if that’s what you are used to calling it, that’s fine).

As I see it, other than the Mem. Acclamation, you’re doing what everyone else in the congregation is doing at any given Mass, so I don’t see how the fact that you’re cantoring makes any difference. What am I missing?

Whenever I can, I kneel, especially if a kneeler there. I want to do what everyone else is doing. Where I currently have my cantor position, though, there is no kneeler and it’s difficult for me to kneel in my “condition”. :stuck_out_tongue: I usually kneel on the floor, but because I’m pregnant and am pretty clumsy right now as well as have a difficult time standing up from the floor, the pastor told me that I don’t have to kneel. (It’s also because I have to think about the baby and if I fall from trying to stand up and down continuously, I could potentially fall on my belly or whatever and hurt the baby and I don’t want to do that.) I slo feel strange being the only person standing, so I sit at the very edge of my seat while everyone else is kneeling. The only time I will kneel, though, is right after we sing the Agnus Dei so that I’m in the right position before I receive communion and can just stand up and receive instead of genuflecting before receiving - which is what I usually do if I’m in the congregation.

I’m still confused. The cantor is needed for the Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation, everything else belongs to the congregation so why do you have to be front and center during the EP?

That is something I know some parishes I’ve worked in had concerns about as well. Personally, to me, even as a cantor, we really shouldn’t have to be there singing at the lectern during the mass parts and even for some hymns. I’ve talked about it with some of my colleagues and the only time we think that we should have to be singing into the mic or whatever during those times is if the hymn is unfamiliar, the mass parts are new and unfamiliar or if it appears that the congregation doesn’t seem to be singing. So, we would be literally leading the “song”, with the most important job for as singing the psalm and Gospel Acclamation.

BUT, there are a couple reasons why cantors are sometimes made to be “front and center” at every part. One is the priest wants it that way, and I’ll just do what the priest tells me to do. Another is that some of these cantor “seminars” actually tell the cantor to do that. I know a woman who comes from a different diocese and she touted herself as a “certified cantor”, having taking the classes from the diocese, etc. And guess what, these certified cantor courses (at least in her diocese) wanted them to sing right into the microphone, be “engaging” to the congregation and be visible. I’ve never taken those classes, but to me as a cantor I should be as invisible as possible and only seen if necessary or at the appropriate times like during the psalm, etc. I’ve also experienced egos from cantors, especially from those men and women who only cantor and do nothing else musically. (It’s not common, but you do run across it.)

Example - At one parish I used to volunteer cantor for, the music director and priests all agreed that the cantors really didn’t need to be at the lectern all the time to bring in the congregation, unless really needed. We were specifically asked to step away from the microphone, maybe just bring the congregation in at the first verse and then stand to the side. For the mass parts we didn’t even have to go to the lectern at all because the mass parts were well known and this was a singing parish. You honestly, did not need a cantor except for unfamiliar hymns and for the psalm and Gospel Acclamation. I was one of the the only cantors who was on board with this. There were one or two others who were with me, but the other cantors, pitched a bunny (to put it nicely). How dare the music director and the priests not allow them to sing at the microphone and be the center of attention. They wanted to be heard and I was so shocked that they even admitted this. Their actions and words showed that they were there to show off and, for a couple, live this dream of “performing” in front of an audience since they didn’t do it anywhere else. They also tended to be the cantors who sang right into the microphone and drowned out the congregation. I used to think it was just that they didn’t know any better (which is usually the case), but once I started to volunteer my time as a cantor, saw the time this music director took to work with the cantors and saw how they acted behind the scenes, the drowning out of the congregation was all done purposefully. I was usually looked at as the oddball because I rarely used the mic. My voice was strong enough without it and they were shocked that I didn’t want to drown out the congregation.

I personally love it when I can cantor from the choir loft, except for the psalm and Gospel Acclamation, when I’m up front.

One last reason, which I think is just part and parcel of people being used to a miked voice, is that some congregations do get disconcerted when they don’t hear a miked voice singing along with them during the hymns. When the parish isn’t a naturally singing parish, they actually feel more comfortable to sing when they hear a strong voice leading them on. You sometimes just need to know the congregation. If the congregation sings on its own, you most likely will not need a cantor to sing into the mic. The cantor can just lead them in. If the congregation needs a little boost or support from the cantor, then you might want to be there at the mic just to help them out, BUT don’t sing right into the mic in order to drown the congregation out either.

Like most parishes, we used to have a “song leader” up front (on the side of the sanctuary) for many years, at least during one of the four weekend Masses. In recent years, there has been (or should have been) many changes made in the way the Liturgy is done. One of the changes made in our parish in recent years, was that our pastor has required all of the choirs and/or song leaders to sing from the choir loft. I don’t know if this was one of the required changes that were instituted or just something that was preferred by our pastor. On Sundays and Solemnities, a cantor does come down and goes to the ambo to lead the Responsorial Psalm. Other than that, everything else is sung from the choir loft. Occassionally, on weekdays, we have an aging choir leader that does lead from the first pew. She uses a wireless microphone and no longer leads from the side of the sanctuary like she used to in previous years.

In our parish, the only time the cantor is miked is for the Exsultet and the Psalms at the Easter Vigil and that’s because our regular cantor, who does the Exsultet, can’t do all the psalms so various choir members who don’t normally cantor take turns on that night and they need miking. The two regular cantors do the Gospel Acclamation & the Psalm from the choir.

They must have stronger voices than our aging choir director. As for the cantor going to the ambo, that was one of the changes that has been made. Most would rather stay up in the choir.

We don’t have a big church and the acoustics are good.

Because the Psalm is part of the Scriptures, the cantor really should be at the ambo, but if it’s a choice between no cantor and a spoken Psalm or leaving the cantor in the choir where she’s comfortable, then I say let them be.

When I cantor at our cathedral, I have to use the mic, especially if I’m up front. The organist is in the choir loft, so he has to be able to hear how I’m going, especially for the psalm and acclamation and you can’t do that without the voice being miked. When I’m in the choir loft, though, at that cathedral for weddings and funerals, I very rarely use the mic unless it’s for the psalm, Gospel Acclamation and mass parts. (It’s rare when people sing at weddings, although recently I cantored one where everyone chanted along in Latin as well as in English. The guests were obviously as devout as the bridal couple. I also didn’t need a mic there as well since the acoustics were so good).

In smaller churches with good acoustics or very large churches in the which the architecture doesn’t have “pockets” in which the sound gets trapped, I do not use the mic. There is no reason to. I’m trained classically, which ensures projecting the sound naturally without belting and shouting that you see a lot with other kinds of singing. A lot of older churches are built with acoustics in mind since it was before the days of microphones. Newer churches, though, are not built with that in mind, unfortunately, and sometimes the sound is so dead, you can’t hear anything and that is usually when one is forced to use a mic.

I love it when I don’t have to use a microphone.

I agree. You’re fortunate that you are at a church where the cantors aren’t forced to use the mic.

To get back on topic - OP… I believe you will need to look at what you diocese says in regards to this. In our diocese, we are supposed to all kneel, but I am aware that some dioceses do not do this. Also, ask the priest at your parish about what would be proper for you to do. I personally believe it is more reverent to kneel after the Sanctus, although there are extenuating circumstances such as my own with being really pregnant and being able to kneel and stand so easily and quickly.

thanks to all for the replies. The church I’m going to be cantoring at is a modern design, no choir loft at all. I’m not sure why everything is the way it is. I’m new at the parish, so i’m just observing what the normal practices are and having a few questions.

at my previous parish, we had a loft, and i cantored from there for everything except the Psalm and Alleluia, which were done at the ambo.

thanks again.

If you’re an organist or pianist, it’s almost always correct to stay sitting on your bench at all times. I’ve seen a few places where they provided kneelers, but those were usually also places where the organ was some tiny electronic synthesizer and there was a lot of room all around it. Usually, keyboard=stay put. It has been that way since the Middle Ages. Don’t feel shy about it.

If you don’t have physical problems and you’re in a group, you do whatever the director tells you to do, and you do it as a group. This usually boils down to “kneel” or “stand”.

If there’s enough space and not a lot of cords, music stands, etc. making it dangerous to kneel, you should preferably kneel. If you stand, you should stand with the attitude that you’re standing like an angel in attendance on God, not just standing around blah blah blah.

If you have a physical condition, you should do whatever is dictated. Most people will figure out why you are sitting, etc. If anybody should be inquisitive, tell them you’re sitting for health reasons. But whatever you do, do it prayerfully.

If you are in full view of the congregation (and even if you aren’t), you should try not to move around too much when it’s not necessary. Movement catches the eye and distracts people. If you make sure that your attention is fixed on the celebrant, etc. and you stay still, other people’s eyes and attention will also be led towards Mass and away from you.

When you move, try to move smoothly and deliberately, even when moving quickly. It’s easy to jerk and bob around when you’re nervous (I know I do!).

If kneeling is hard on your knees and there’s no kneeler provided, there’s nothing stopping you from bringing in a small cushion of an inconspicuous size and color. (People used to do this all the time, before pews were invented.) But practice what you’re going to do with it, so that it doesn’t become a production and get noticed.

If you’re going to kneel in full view of the congregation in a skirt, especially if you don’t have a kneeler, it’s probably best if you practice that ahead of time also. It’s better to figure this stuff out at home, rather than suddenly start worrying and fidgeting in the middle of Mass about whether your skirt is hanging right or your heels are going to rip your hem when you get up.

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