EPISTLE READING - ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 2:1-11
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
SUNDAY OF THE FATHERS OF THE FIRST NICEAN COUNCIL
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
LITURGICAL QUESTION: OUR POSTURE IN CHURCH
The most common posture is attentive standing. There are no rubrical traditions for standing and sitting at the Liturgy. The traditional churches, of course, did not have pews, and the faithful stood for the Liturgy, chairs being provided only for the weak and elderly, because the Liturgy is not designed to be a marathon contest. Certain patterns of sitting have developed in the Ruthenian Church, yet not all churches follow the same system. In the Ruthenian Church, people usually sit for the litanies and for the antiphons until the Monogenes (“O only-begotten Son ... “) They also sit for the Epistle and the homily. There is a tendency toward more sitting, and visitors who are not a part of the community will sometimes simply sit as spectators. Sitting is certainly a more passive form of participation than standing.
Kneeling for prayer is not permitted in the Byzantine Church on Sundays, the holydays of the Lord and the Theotokos, and the fifty days from Pascha (Easter) to Pentecost, a rule which can be traced back to the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, Canon20, “Since there are some who kneel on Sunday and during the season of Pentecost, this holy synod decrees that, so that the same observances may be maintained in every diocese, one should offer one’s prayers to the Lord standing.” Note that this refers to kneeling in prayer, so, for example, when a man is ordained, he is not kneeling “in prayer,” but to receive God’s grace. In the West, kneeling became a common prayer posture, while in the East, it always signified penance.
In the Roman Church, kneeling became the standard for receiving Holy Communion, but after the Vatican II Council, standing was permitted. This is now the norm for Catholics in the United States: “The General Instruction asks each country's Conference of Bishops 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. In the United States, the body of Bishops determined that Communion should be received standing, and that a bow is 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.”
In the Eastern Church, the practice of standing to receive Holy Communion is much stronger, even though in the past some Eastern Catholic Churches adopted the Roman custom. The rule now is that Communion must be received standing. Holy Communion is a partaking in the Body and Blood of our Lord. Of course, we are not worthy of this gift, but we are made worthy by divine grace. Since Communion is the reception of the risen Body of Christ, we too in receiving it are “raised up,” and begin to share in his risen life. Standing is a natural sign of resurrection. This posture, then, is an expression of our faith.