The word genuflect quite literally means to “bend the knee.” But there is more meaning behind the word than just bending your knee to the floor. To genuflect is to recognize and acknowledge the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament – Jesus – by bending the right knee before the place in which we pray and also after we leave our place of prayer. In other words, we genuflect before each liturgy, and after each liturgy to remind ourselves of the very real presence of God.
All that we do, say, pray, and sing in worship is intended to point us to Jesus, even some things as basic as bending a knee. Our gestures, our movements, even our posture can lead our thoughts to a greater awareness of God’s presence in our prayer – as C.S. Lewis wrote, “The body ought to pray as well as the soul… body and soul are both better for it.”
Can we find the word “genuflect” in scripture? Not exactly, but the meaning is there. The closest word from the Greek translation of the Old Testament is Proskynein, which literally means to bow one’s whole body to the floor, to prostrate the whole self, as a sign of reverence an honor to the one before you.
We find the meaning in the New Testament as well. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, (2:9-11), describes Jesus in this way: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth…
To genuflect is to show a sign of reverence and humility. When I bend my knee to the floor, my body makes a connection with my mind and witnesses my belief that I am absolutely open to the will and transforming power of God. If you come across someone who thinks that genuflection is silly or just for children – tell them not to get bent out of shape – just get bent into shape and think about the amazing presence of Jesus.
Director of Worship, Church of St. Joseph