Q. In the Apostles Creed, why do we bow only at the portion of Virgin Mary, and not any of the other significant/important articles?

Aveena, Singapore

 Thanks for the question. In order to answer the question, we need to understand different kinds of bows and their purposes during the liturgy.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM 137, 275) which explains the prayers and actions during the Holy Mass delineates different kinds of bows and their intentions.  We are asked to bow and make other signs at different times during the Mass.  There are two kinds of bows we make during the Mass – a simple bow of the head and a more profound bow of the body.  Then there is the act of adoration of our God, which is known as genuflection.

“The bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them” (GIRM 275).  The same number further explains that a bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are invoked and at the name of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and at the name of the saint whom we honour during the Mass.  Before the reception of the Holy Communion also we bow our head.

A profound bow of the body is made during the Creed, as mentioned in your question, in order to honour the most important act in the history of humanity – God becoming man. This is the kind of bow we make to the altar, when passing in front of it or entering the sanctuary.  There are other occasions when priests and deacons make profound bows during the Mass.

 We genuflect toward the Eucharistic Lord.  We are expected to genuflect upon entering and leaving Church toward the Tabernacle – if and when the Eucharist is present.  The same is done by the priests and servers when they enter and leave, but not during Mass. On the Solemnities of the Annunciation and of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas), all genuflect, instead of bowing during the Creed.

From the above discussion it is clear that we make a profound bow at the words of the Creed, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”  And here the profound bow is not to the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but to the great mystery of our salvation – God becoming man.  This profound bow signifies our great respect and gratitude to Jesus Christ who, though God, did not hesitate to come among us as a human being, participating in our human condition in order to redeem us from sin and restore us to friendship with God.

Please send your questions to askfrbitaju@kairos.global and your questions will be answered here.

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Fr Bitaju Mathew, O.SS.T. belongs to the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives (Trinitarians). He serves as the secretary Vice Provincial of the Order in India and is currently Chaplain of the Jesus Youth International Formation Team.