Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess…

The Second Vatican Council’s first document, Sacrosanctum Concilium was on the Sacred Liturgy. In it, the Council Fathers wrote:

Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing (23).

My understanding of this text means that if there is not a solid reason that comes from a genuine concern for the spiritual life and salvation of God’s people, a change should not be made. And, if a change were to be made, it must not be something made up in the thin air, but come from the “continuity” our our Liturgical tradition.

I was stuck at Christmas Mass this year, since I have both forms of the Roman Rite. The directives for the Ordinary Form of the Mass state that during the Creed, “All kneel at the words and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate.” Normally in the Ordinary Form, all are directed to bow. However, during Mass on Solemnities of Christmas and the Annunciation, all are to “kneel.”

Even if a homily were to be preached on this during Mass on Christmas / Annunciation, it never fails, no one kneels but the priest and any alert servers. And, I have even seen some priests who fail to kneel.

How did the reformers of the Mass expect people to kneel on these two days alone, when they reduced it to a bow in every other Mass that the Creed is recited throughout the year? Did they think that their innovations would lead the Catholic people to suddenly become Liturgists who knew what to do, when many priests either don’t know or fail to do it?

The second thing that struck me this Christmas was the Third Mass (Mass on Christmas Day). In many places, the reformers removed verses from the readings that did not suit them. However, on this Third Mass for Christmas they saw it necessary to add five versus, or give the option of a version that excludes three verses. Could they not have been satisfied with the full version used in the Extraordinary Form (the traditional Last Gospel)?  See the chart below.

God forbid all Catholics hear the same Gospel on Christmas Day. Were these two changes, “kneeling” and the Gospel, “for the good of the Church?” Did they grow “organically” our of tradition? Or were they mere innovations brought about for the sake of novelty?

  • Extraordinary Form: Jn. 1:1-14 [Black & red text]
  • Ordinary Form: Jn 1:1-18 (Long Form) [Verses 15-18 are added]
  • Ordinary Form: Jn 1:1-5, 9-14 (Short Form) [Verses 6-8 are removed]


[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

[2] He was in the beginning with God; 

[3] all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 

[4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 

[5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

[6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 

[7] He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 

[8] He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 

[9] The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 

[10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 

[11] He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 

[12] But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 

[13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 

[14]  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

[15] (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'”) 

[16] And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. 

[17] For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 

[18] No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.