Q: I have been a deacon for a few years now and have attended many Masses in different parishes in different diocese. I am always interested in what the local deacon does during Mass. This has generated a question about the posture of the deacon during the Eucharistic Prayer. I have noticed that some deacons kneel after the Holy, Holy, Holy. Some of those remain kneeling until near the end of the Prayer, when they will stand and approach the altar to raise the Cup. Some remain kneeling until the Mystery of Faith, at which point they will stand. During the Prayer, the priest will genuflect (or profound bow) at three points. The deacons that I notice kneeling will usually bow their heads at these points. Those that stand fall into three groups: they either make no acknowledgement, bow their heads, or genuflect with the priest. So, my question is: is there a preferred posture that the deacon should take during the Eucharistic Prayer? If they are standing, should they genuflect with the priest? (To be fair, my posture is to kneel until the Mystery of Faith—during the Epiclesis—then stand; I bow my head at the moments when Father genuflects in response to the solemnity of what is happening at that point of the liturgy.)
A: I’ve treated some of this in my book Let Us Pray. GIRM 179 says this: “From the epiclesis until the Priest shows the chalice, the Deacon usually remains kneeling.”
Perhaps some of the variation you witness can be explained by the word “usually”. The deacon kneels during the same time that the entire assembly kneels—except in the United States, where the people kneel for a longer period both before and after what is prescribed for the deacon. The posture for the deacon was not designed to be unique.
The rubrics indicate no additional reverence for the deacon. If he is kneeling, that is reverence enough. He does not bow his head. With the people is to look at the host and the chalice. That’s why the priest is showing them at that point of the Mass.
If for reasons of infirmity a deacon cannot kneel, then he follows GIRM 43: If members of the faithful stand for the eucharistic prayer, they make a profound bow when the priest genuflects.
Such details are present in the rubrics not for the sake of obsessions. They are there to balance properly the purposes of what is happening. The prayer is called the “eucharistic” prayer, not the “adoration” prayer. It pauses appropriately for a moment of reverence, but then the real business of the entire prayer continues: giving thanks and praise to God.