Ask a Priest

Bowing in the Nicene Creed

Dec 07, 2015


While in Mass, one of my choir students asked why we bow in the Nicene Creed, more specifically,

[size= 12px; color: #333333; font-family: arial]”For us men and for our salvation[/size]

[size= 12px; color: #333333; font-family: arial]he came down from heaven, (BOW)[/size]

[size= 12px; color: #333333; font-family: arial]and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgen Mary, [/size]

[size= 12px; color: #333333; font-family: arial]and became man.”[/size]

I know that we bow as a sign of reverence, but I would like to give a specific answer or maybe know more to further explain this. Thanks for all the help.

Asked at 09:38 pm on December 07th 2015

Hi Evana, we used to genuflect at this phrase, which I think symbolized God coming down on earth and taking up our human nature in Christ. Even though my knees aren’t what they used to be, I wish we still genuflected, as I find it hard to remember to bow when I’m saying the Creed!

Since we’re not disembodied but embodied spirits, we can express our reverence for God by various bodily postures – like genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, kneeling down when we’re saying our morning and evening prayers, making the sign of the cross, and so on. It’s not that God needs us to kneel, but we need to remind ourselves that we are his creatures, utterly dependent on him. I remember when I first saw the enormous Redwood trees in some of the national parks in California, I started laughing. Beside them we look just like what in Ireland we call ‘the little people,’ like elves, totally tiny. So beside God, who’s greater than the 46 billion light years across that our universe is (maybe it’s even more mind-bogglingly immense), I think it’s a help to us to keep the perspective on just how small we are before the infinite Love of God who made us and loves us down to the last hair on our heads.

Replied at 11:18 pm on December 08th 2015

Evana: The historical and Traditional Roman Rite is full of sacramental symbolisms and sacred jesters. Genuflecting is a major sign of respect and we show this during the Nicene Creed at the words . . .”and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary AND WAS MADE MAN.” Notice the caps here as this is one of the major beliefs of our faith. Bowing of the head was also indicated at the words . . . “who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.” So, we genuflect ET HOMO FACTUS EST and bow at simul adoratur et conglorificatur. This bow pays homage to the Trinity.

The good sisters of St. Vincent dePaul taught us to always to bow our heads at the name of Jesus. Scripture states every knee should bend at His name, but this, of course is impractical, thus the slight bow, nevertheless, Holy Mother Church maintains as sacred all forms of symbolism.

Replied at 05:15 pm on December 11th 2015

Thank you! You made is so clear.

Replied at 10:25 pm on December 15th 2015

Thanks for the response Raymond!

Replied at 10:54 pm on December 15th 2015

That man was created in God’s image also means that the universe is infinite.

Our Infinite God cannot be contained, hence His reflection on the waters must be infinite.

To think that Our Father of such proportion has taken our form prompts us to remember that “every knee shall bend”, and no better time to do that than at the point in the Creed when the Incarnation is cited.

Replied at 09:01 am on December 22nd 2015