From a reader:
I am a bit of an amateur rubricist (God help us all), and know the rules in the Ordinary Form. The bishops of the United States, under the permission of the Holy See, have mandated kneeling during the Canon and after the Agnus Dei. This is clear.
After attending sung and solemn Masses in the EF each Sunday for nearly two years, I have finally seen the rubrics which specify kneeling for the consecration and during the communion of the faithful and standing at other times. (Rubricae Generales Missi 571, if I recall) I have never observed this (but our servers at Mass tend to get confused anyway), but I have read that kneeling for the whole Canon is a long-standing practice in the United States.
My question is this: is there, or was there ever legislation in the United States for kneeling more than the rubrics dictate? If not, then can it be really proper to ignore the rubrics in such a way?
I know in the EF the people are not bound by the rubrics, but still ought to follow the practice of the servers and those in choir.
I think the best source right now for some clarity may be the newest revised edition of Fortescue/O’Connell, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, done by Alcuin Reid.
In the Missale Romanum there are no directions for the laity. However, there are some conventions. Lay people should follow, as closely as is reasonable, the rules for clergy in choir.
So, they kneel during the prayers at the foot of the altar up to the Oremus, but stand for the Introit, Kyrie and Gloria. The sit when the celebrant sits and stand when he stands. They stand during orations. They sit for the offertory preparations and rise to be incensed. They stand at the words before the Preface per omnia saecula saeculorum and then kneel at the end of the Sanctus and remain kneeling to the end of the Canon. Unless they go to Communion they basically remain kneeling until the tabernacle door is closed at the end of Communion. They kneel for the blessing. Etc.
It could be that there is a certain tension between the perception of Mass as a celebratory moment and Mass as either an encounter with mystery or a moment of personal examination. If in ancient times the faithful stoop more, in an ancient position of prayer, over time people would kneel for the whole of the anaphora in an attitude of penance. During the penitential times (Ember Days, Lent, the fast times, etc.) even those who were not formally doing public penance would kneel.
After the Novus Ordo came into effect, the universal law was that all are to kneel for the consecration from the epiklesis to the Mysterium fidei.
In the USA, the bishops obtained permission from the Holy See for particular law for the USA that all would effectively continue with the older convention, that is, to kneel from the end of the Sanctus to the end of the Doxology. So, people should be kneeling for the whole Eucharistic Prayer. Some will point out that the Preface and Sanctus should also be considered part of the Eucharistic Prayer, but the older convention is followed and there is a natural transition point at the Sanctus.
So, yes. In the USA there was legislation approved by the Holy See to kneel for more than was customary in the rest of the world.