So wrote John Cosin in the 17th century:

Kneeling is the most fit gesture for humble penitents, and being so, it is strange to see how in most places men are suffered to sit rudely and carelessly on their seats, all the while this confession is read; and others that be in the church are nothing affected with it.  They think it a thing of indifferency forsooth, if the heart be right.

Does this description match your own congregation’s experience?  Are there those who sit instead of kneel during the confession of sins?  Do people assert that their bodily position is irrelevant as long as their heart is truly contrite?  Against such, Cosin makes a comparison to the practice of kneeling to receive Holy Communion:

it is as fit we should have the like order taken, that this following absolution be pronounced to none but those that kneel neither.  For else there will be no excuse for us, nor no reason left us to render the puritans, why our Church should more punish them, or hinder them from the benefit of the Sacrament for not kneeling then, than it doth punish other men, or hinder them of the benefit of absolution, for not kneeling in the time of confession.  It is a like case, and would be better thought on by men of wisdom and authority, whose neglect and carelessness in this kind gives not only cause of great offence and scandal to them that are reverently and well disposed, but withal is a cause of great impiety and scorn of our solemnity in God’s service; and it is objected to us by the puritans, in their Survey, and by the papists….

Apparently the Puritans objected to kneeling, and complained that they were being picked on for refusing to kneel for Communion when a lot more people were already failing to kneel for the confession.  Answering these concerns, Cosin asserts (with the Prayer Book and the Canons of the Church of England) that men must kneel in both instances, and be reproved for their disobedience equally in both cases.

After the confession, note that the priest alone stands up to read and declare the absolution.  This is a part of his divine ministry, per the order of Scripture and the Church, and ought to be received as the word of God himself.  The absolution in the Daily Office specifically states our theology of the ordained ministry performing this function, and the absolution at the Communion service is followed by Comfortable Words that bring God’s Words to bear on that part of the liturgy.

Granted, there are cases today where kneeling can be difficult, especially for the elderly.  There are situations of church architecture where there is nowhere to kneel to receive the Sacrament.  Strictly speaking, the 2019 Prayer Book does not even mandate kneeling for the reception of Holy Communion, and the rubric about kneeling for the confessions may be softened by an Additional Direction that notes that all referencing to standing imply the caveat “as able.”  These are, I think, legitimate pastoral provisions.  But in general, a lot more people can and should be kneeling a lot more regularly than is customary in many places.

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