liturgical instructions issued by a Roman Catholic bishop to his flock. In it, among other things, he addressed the change from a genuflection before the tabernacle to a profound bow. It was a perfect example of how something exceptional became normative (exceptional here meaning against the rule).
...a profound bow — made purposefully and reverently from the waist — can
be a fitting way to reverence the Divine Majesty, but only if one cannot
genuflect, which is not always the same as having some difficulty
We have come to equate the inability to do something with the dislike or distaste for doing it with a difficulty doing it. They are not the same, as the good bishop noted. Incapacity does not relieve the individual from the duty but merely prescribes a different form to fulfill the duty. The person who cannot walk, for example, is not exempted from genuflecting but satisfies the duty with what he can do -- a profound bow. Truth be told, anyone who has trouble walking would gladly genuflect over and over again if with it came the restoration of his ability to walk unimpeded.
Difficulty doing something means that it is not impossible to do but requires much effort and perhaps the endurance of some pain to do it. It is my experience that those with difficulty doing something tend to try to do it no matter what. I have written before of an elderly woman who labored to kneel in worship and, when offered the chance to bypass the liturgical posture, refused to give up trying. Some might say pride was the reason but I tend to believe it was genuine piety. The Lord who endured such pain for us deserves more than a perfunctory effort on our part.
Dislike or distaste for something is very different. The person here does not seek to fulfill the duty at all. It is, in many respects, an act of defiance against the duty. I refuse to genuflect (or bow or whatever). The problem here is not the failure to genuflect but the attitude that refuses the reason to genuflect.
Lutherans love to insist that we are not bound by such rules as the bishop wrote about. We don't hafta do nuthin! On one level, it is true. But underneath our insistence upon liberty in all things is often hidden a refusal of the duty. How often I have heard people say "God would not want you to be uncomfortable..." Baloney. Our defiance of God can take many forms. We may refuse the outward actions of piety that honor Him and His presence (no bowing, kneeling, or genuflecting for me!). Or, we may refuse to believe that God is worth our discomfort in any way, shape, or form.
I do not worry about people's inability to do something or even their difficulty. I trust them in both cases. But what does worry me is our refusal to believe that God would want us to be uncomfortable. That is a defiant act in which we have placed self-interest and personal preference above all things. And it is all too common today for us to equate personal comfort or preference with that which glorifies God. Ultimately this is not about standing, sitting, kneeling, or genuflecting but the insistence upon something being found meaningful for us before we will accede to doing it. It certainly has had profound implications for worship but it is not limited to worship alone.
It is good to be reminded that inability, difficulty, and the refusal to do something are not at all the same things. It would also be good for us to examine our hearts and come before the Lord with repentance for the pride that insists we don't find something meaningful or the arrogant belief that we don't believe God would want us to be uncomfortable in our Christian faith, piety, worship, and life. For us as Lutherans, this hits pretty close to home.