Posted on January 20th, 2010
Not everyone genuflects (or, alternatively, bows) at the same place in the Creed. My practice has followed what Dr. David Scaer insisted was correct, that of genuflecting at the et homo factus est. Others genuflect/bow earlier, I suspect so that they can stand at the crucifixus (I stand at the et resurrexit), which is sometimes explained as being a confession that the crucifixion is the beginning of Christ’s exaltation/glorification. I get the point theologically, but as a practical matter I’ve never bought it. Plus, if there seems to be a tradition that doesn’t contradict the gospel, then we should keep it. At least, that’s how I read the Confessions.
Shortly after Christmas I asked my friend, Rev. Charles McClean, about it, since he is a fountain of knowledge, particularly on matters liturgical. Here was his response to me:
I checked The Conduct of the Services and discovered that Fr Piepkorn first mentions the northern European usage at the Et incarnatus: bowing from “And was incarnate” through “and was crucified” and then upright for “under Pontius Pilate” lest – to the medieval mind – we join in the mockery of Pilate’s soldiers. He then goes on to mention the genuflection at “AND WAS MADE MAN,” the custom praised in Luther’s commentary on St John’s Gospel (LW 22:102, 105). In my work I simply repeated Piepkorn’s work and gave the Luther citation.
I find it hilarious that one would stand at the reference to Pontius Pilate so as not to give him honor.
So, when do you genuflect, and why?