Genuflection

GENUFLECTION

The Prayer of Genuflection is performed in the Coptic Church on the eve of Whitsunday (the Feast of Pentecost) to indicate the end of Eastertide, during which prostration does not occur. This prayer signals another period in the liturgical calendar, during which prostration is permitted.

Ireneaus Bishop of Lyon wrote, “Do not kneel on the Lord’s Day as symbol of the resurrection, through which by Christ’s grace we have been freed from our sins.” In the third century, Tertullian wrote, “As for ourselves, according to our tradition, only on the day of the Lord’s resurrection should we refrain from this custom [of kneeling]. . . . The same holds for the season of Pentecost, that is marked by the same joyous celebration.”

Eusebius of Caesarea, expounding the Gospel of Luke, wrote, “Wherefore we are not allowed to toil during this festival. . . . Consequently, we neither bend the knee at prayers nor afflict ourselves with fasting.” The Armenian Lectionary of the fifth century states that on the eve of the Feast of the Pentecost, there are three genuflections and a reading from the Gospel of John (16:5-15).

Severus of Antioch at the beginning of the sixth century composed a hymn for this occasion by saying that we do not bend our knees during Eastertide. Hence, the tradition of kneeling or prostration on the eve of the Feast of the Pentecost is well attested by the Church Fathers.

The Coptic prayer book of genuflection mentions an incident that occurred during the patriarchate of a certain Macarius of Antioch. While the patriarch was reciting his prayers on the eve of Pentecost, a storm arose three times and the believers understood this as God’s will for prostration to take place three times. Although the practice of genuflection is well attested as early as the second century, this legend is simply considered another demonstration for the practice.

Manuscript 42 Vatican is dated 1032 a.m. (1316 a.d.) and was originally from the Church of the Virgin Mary in Haret Al-Rum, Old Cairo. A manuscript from the Church of the Virgin Mary in Haret Zuweila, Cairo, is dated 1177 a.m. (1461 a.d.) and, in addition to an incomplete manuscript also from Haret Zuweila, is now located in the Italian city of Pisa. This rite of genuflection is mentioned by Abu al Barakat ibn Kabar in his encyclopedia entitled The Lamp of Darkness for the Explanation of the Service (chapter 19).

There exists in the Greek Church a rite for the necessity of performing seven prayers. According to Coptic rites, there are three liturgical segments (sections), each of which contains readings from Deuteronomy, a Pauline epistle, a psalm, and a gospel reading. Each segment then concludes with the prayers found in the rites of the Greek Church. Each prayer of the Coptic genuflection follows the same structure.

Within the prayers, several themes are apparent, such as fire, speaking in tongues, feast of the weeks, kneeling, and the ministry of the Apostles, all of which are relevant Pentecostal themes. Important to note is that the first prayer of genuflection consists of some prayers taken from the Vesper Psalmody:

First Genuflection Second Genuflection Third Genuflection
ProphecyDeut. 5:23-33, 6:1-3
These commandments
the Lord spoke in a
great voice to your
whole assembly on
the mountain out
of the fire.
ProphecyDeut. 6:17-25.You must
diligently keep the
commandments of
the Lord your God
. . . and you may
enter and occupy the
rich land, which the
Lord promised by
oath to your
forefathers.
ProphecyDeut. 16:1-18.Observe the month of
Abib and keep the
Passover to the Lord
Your God . . . Seven
weeks
shall be

counted from
the time.
I Cor. 12:28—13:1-12.
God has appointed, in
first place apostles,
in the second place
prophets. . . . I may
speak in tongues
of

men or of angels, but
if I am without love.
I Cor. 13:13, 14:1-17.
And now abides faith,
hope, love, these
three; but the greatest
of these is love. I
would that you all
spake with tongues
but rather that you
prophesied.
I Cor. 14:18-40.I thank my God, for I
speak with tongues
more than you all
.. . . Wherefore,

brethren, covet to
prophesy, and forbid
not to speak with
tongues. Let all
things be done
decently and in
order.
Psalms 96:8, 1.
Worship (kneel) Him
all you angels. Zion
heard and was glad.
The Lord reigns.
Psalms 115:9-10-13.The Lord remembered
us and He blessed
the house of Aaron.
He blessed them that
fear the Lord, both
small and great.
Psalms 65:4, 72:11.All the earth shall
worship (kneel) Thee
and shall sing unto
Thy name. You, all
kings will kneel
down in front of Him

and all nations will
worship Him.
First Genuflection Second Genuflection Third Genuflection
John 17:1-26.As you sent Me to the
world even so have
I sent them to the
world. . . . I in them
and Thou in Me that
they may be made
perfect in one; and
that the world may
know that Thou hast
sent Me, and hast
loved them, as Thou
hast loved Me.
Luke 24:36-53.And as they thus spake,
Jesus Himself stood
in the midst of them
and saith unto them,
‘Peace be unto you.’
. . . And He led them
out as far as Bethany,
and He lifted up His
hands and blessed
them. And it came to
pass while He
blessed them; He
was parted from
them and carried up
into heaven. And
they worshipped
(kneeled) Him and

returned to Jerusalem
with great joy.
John 4: 1-24
When therefore theLord knew how the
Pharisees had heard
that Jesus made and
baptised more
disciples than John
. . . But the hour
comes, and now is,
when the true
worshippers shall
worship the Father
in Spirit and in truth:
for the Father seeks
such to worship
Him. God is Spirit
and they that
worship Him must
worship Him in spirit
and truth.
First and Second prayer Third and Fourth prayer Fifth, sixth and seventh
prayers

This rite was first published by R. Tukhi in his pontificale, vol. II, pp. 326-415.

GAWDAT GABRA

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