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with all who stand before you

Recently, a community, re-ordering its liturgical space made it easier for people to stand, as well as alowing those who sought to do so to kneel for receiving communion. They highlighted the words at the end of the eucharistic prayer “… with all who stand before you in earth and heaven, we worship you…” I have previously used this text to highlight standing throughout the eucharistic prayer as appropriate in renewed liturgy:

Standing throughout the Great Thanksgiving is also a return to the ancient JewishChristian posture for prayer. It makes little sense to pray the words “with all who stand before you … we worship you” (page 423) while kneeling! Keeping the same posture throughout the prayer again witnesses to the unity of the Great Thanksgiving. Hence, announcements such as “Let us pray” made after “Blessed is he …” are to be avoided. An announcement made in the middle of a prayer interrupts its unity. Furthermore, “Let us pray” said in the middle of the Great Thanksgiving implies that what has occurred previously was not prayer! In any case, “Let us pray” should not be equivalent to “please kneel,” as if kneeling is the only appropriate posture for Christian prayer!

Interested, a member of this community contacted me for the history of this text. Best I can find so far is that it was first included in the draft form of Series 3 (UK, CofE) in June 1971. It was incorporated into the First Eucharistic Prayer of The Alternative Service Book 1980. New Zealand first added it to a 1981 draft and from there it went into the NZ 1984 revision The Liturgy of the Eucharist. It has been retained in all subsequent NZ and CofE revisions, including Prayer A in Common Worship and the reworked (never authorised in the Roman Catholic Church) ICEL 1984 text, as Prayer G.

If anyone knows any previous or other history of this phrase, including biblical connections – the comments box is open for you, thanks.

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4 thoughts on “with all who stand before you”

  1. I have not looked to confirm this but I recall reading that the Council of Nicaea decreed that standing was the appropriate posture.

    The American Book of Common Prayer has a rubric before the Eucharistic Prayer that standing or kneeling is appropriate. My understanding of how the rubrics are written is that when there is an option such as standing or kneeling the preferred choice is listed first. Despite this I find most congregations still kneel.

  2. Yes, Mike, the bishops at the Council of Nicaea were clearly shocked to discover some were kneeling on the Lord’s day “and even in the days of Pentecost!” (the 50 days of the Easter Season). The 20th Canon of the Council of Nicaea hence enjoins that things be done uniformly everywhere: “it seems good to the holy Synod that prayers be made to God standing.”

    Our (NZ) Prayer Book Commission had “It is recommended that the people stand throughout the following prayer”, our General Synod voted to add “or kneel” after “stand” into that rubric.

  3. Hmm… I have in the past and will continue to take issue with that particular reading of the canons of Nicaea. Here’s the post on my blog where I lay out that logic.

    Too, I wonder about the word “standing” in your prayer. What is it trying to say or emphasize? Is it presenting the fact that we are joining with a host of others who are in the presence of God or is it intending to make a particular comment about their posture? It seems to me that if we’re going to be biblical, we’d need to note that that the liturgical action of the 24 elders in the Book of Revelation is a ceaseless proskynesis.

  4. Mmmmm… what about kneeling to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion? When did this start? Why does it still hold such sway?

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