Two California dioceses will make a change this week that will see Catholics kneel during Mass after the Agnus Dei — the “Lamb of God” triptych prayed during the Eucharistic liturgy.

Starting Ash Wednesday, February 14, both the Diocese of Stockton, California and the Diocese of Oakland will require that Catholics kneel after the “Lamb of God” is recited, as is the practice in most parts of the United States.

Catholics kneel during the celebration of Holy Mass. Credit: © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk
According to a letter published by Stockton’s Bishop Myron Cotta, both Stockton and Oakland will normalize kneeling on Ash Wednesday, “meaning that with the change we will have the same practice as most of our surrounding dioceses.”

The postures and practices used during Mass are governed by a Vatican document called the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which allow for certain practices to be adapted or specified by national bishops’ conferences.

The 2002 U.S. bishops’ conference adaptations to the text stipulate that “the faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise.”

In his letter, Cotta explained that since the early 2000s, the Stockton diocese, “along with several others in the country, changed to having the faithful stand at this point of the Mass.”

Standing after the Agnus Dei “is in line with the general practice of the Roman Rite worldwide,” the bishop wrote, adding that “both postures have their value: standing together helps us to recognize our unity as the Body of Christ, while kneeling is seen to better express an attitude of adoration before our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.”

But the bishop noted that because kneeling after the Agnus Dei is more common in the United States, the local practice of standing “has often become an opportunity for confusion, with dioceses in the same region having differing practices.”

“Even though both are legitimate, there does not seem to be sufficient reason to have a different practice from the great majority of the other dioceses of our country,” Cotta wrote.

In the Diocese of Oakland, the practice of kneeling after the Agnus Dei is already common in many parishes, local sources told The Pillar.

But Lenten guidelines published by the diocese indicate that kneeling after the Agnus Dei will be “normative through out diocese as of Ash Wednesday,” for all parishes.

In an instruction on the subject shared with The Pillar, Oakland’s Bishop Michael Barber explained that “it had been the policy in our diocese set by a previous bishop to remain standing following the Lamb of God. However I see no valid reason for us to diverge from the common practice of the Church in the United States….”

From The Pillar