Wherein Fr. Z rants – QUAERITUR: not genuflecting to tabernacle during Mass

From a reader:

I had a question about the rubrics of the ordinary form that I can’t seem to find an answer to. Before the consecration, it is the practice of the sacred ministers to bow to the altar rather than genuflect to a tabernacle in the sanctuary. But what about after the consecration? As an acolyte (I would assume the priest and deacon are more-or-less stationary at the altar), I have to sometimes cross the sanctuary during Mass after the Agnus Dei and don’t know if I should bow or genuflect to the altar when the Blessed Sacrament is present.

The Ordinary Form prescribes that sacred ministers genuflect at the beginning of Mass when coming to the altar and at the end.  Also, the priest genuflects at the moment prescribed after the elevation of each of the Eucharistic species after their consecrations, and also before taking up the Host atbefore Communion.  Otherwise everyone is supposed to bow to the altar – even if the Blessed Sacrament is present there in a tabernacle – or bow to the tabernacle if it is elsewhere around the sanctuary and you walk before it.

The idea here is that we, as a Eucharistic gathering, ideally all of us seething with meaningful awareness of the ancient Christians who didn’t reserve the Eucharist as later Christians did, all of us ideally focusing our seething awareness and mutual affirmation on how the altar is a sign of the presence of Christ (as are the words Scripture and the congregation itself gathered in His Name, etc.) are to give honor to the altar of sacrifice, blah blah, all of us seething in mutually affirming anticipation as an Alleluia people who stand rather than kneel that sometime during the institution narrative …. 

You get my drift.  This is all very heady stuff.

I am a Say The Black – Do The Red sort of guy, so I am not, I repeat not going to tell people to ignore rubrics… but…. 

Frankly, I think that whole thing should be done away with.  To my mind it is just plain wrong to "ignore" –  to use a contentious word – the Blessed Sacrament in favor of some other thing which at that moment also is a sign of the presence of the Lord, namely the altar.  And yes we all know that Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox bow rather than genuflect and that their bowing is in no way lacking in reverence, etc.

But lets just talk among our Latin Church Catholic selves for a while here.

This is one of those modern liturgical reform oddities of the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form, which I just can’t get my old-fashioned Catholic head around.  If someone were to show up in my confessional saying that he genuflected during Mass when walking in front of the Blessed Sacrament I am not sure I would think he sinned, even venially.

"But Father! But Father!", the liturgically-aware will expostulate, perhaps with a little sneer.  They have been waving their arms around for a couple paragraphs by now, saying, "We are not ignoring the reserved Eucharist!  We are rather affirming the Eucharistic presence which is going to be consecrated in the context of this present sacred synaxsis. [They always have to get words like "synaxsis" in there.]  Perhaps the unnuanced find this disconcerting but in time the liturgically more mature come to be able to balance interrelations and seeeemingly challenging phenomena which diachronically …. "  yadda yadda…. yawn yawn. 

I respond: Oh yah? 

That’s all very fancy, but what real people are liturgically aware of, pal, is that you are blowing off the Blessed Sacrament which they can SEE  – RIGHT THERE.  You are walking by the tabernacle where they KNOW or OUGHT TO KNOW the Eucharistic Lord is really and truly present. 

After a while that will take its toll on what people believe and how they themselves give reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.

So… seethe away with liturgical awareness, juxtaposing and balancing your interrelated phenomena. 

I think this should be simple for Latin Church Catholics: 

Are you walking in front of the tabernacle? Hit the deck! 

Unless you are carrying something big or precarious, whether it is during Mass or simply heading across the sanctuary after Mass to scrape some wax off the floor, in my opinion we should genuflect when we walk before the Lord, truly present.

The Goa’uld in Stargate got one thing right, and I wish I could make my eyes flash: Bend your knee to your GOD!

And I will remind everyone that in the older, traditional form of Mass this isn’t a problem.

I am a Say The Black – Do The Red sort of guy, so I am not, I repeat not going to tell people to ignore rubrics… but….  

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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41 Responses to Wherein Fr. Z rants – QUAERITUR: not genuflecting to tabernacle during Mass

  1. GordonB says:

    Perhaps a dumb question, but is the Eucharist ALWAYS going to be present within the tabernacle? Are there circumstances (other than Good Friday) that the Eucharist is not reserved?

  2. david andrew says:

    This may seem overly simplistic, but if the Mass were conducted ad orientem at the high altar, even if according to the OF, wouldn’t all of the genuflections that I see during the EF still be a part of the rubrics, and thus the problem would be solved?

    I hope this will not become a rabbit hole, and my apologies if it does and needs to be deleted, but those of us who are “reform of the reform”-minded are aware of how bad it was (and still is in many places) when the “presider’s chair” (eh-hem) was put in front of the high altar, in front of the tabernacle so that the “presider” could “see and be seen.” Or, when the tabernacle was moved to a side altar (or worse, a shelf mounted on the wall), and the “presider’s chair” was put to one side at an angle, with the priest’s back to the tabernacle.

    Isn’t it rather obvious that when a free-standing altar is placed in front of the high altar with the priest versus populum, the priest is celebrating the majority of the Mass, and certainly the most important part of it, with his back to the tabernacle?

    I think all of these niggling issues that cause so much seething would be eliminated if we simply did away with the aberration of free-standing altars and conduct the liturgy before the high altar with the tabernacle at the center, as the Church has always intended.

  3. TomB says:

    Gordon, just check the lamp near the tabernacle. If our Lord is present, it will be lit.

  4. Thank you, Father, for covering this periodically — it’s without a doubt one of the more maddening aspects of the Novus Ordo rubrics, especially for a server. My fellow servers and I here at school have adopted the ‘default’ practice of walking in front of the freestanding altar (rather than between altar and tabernacle) and genuflecting in the middle — then at least we can’t be accused of turning our backs to the altar. But even then, each Priest responds differently, some encouraging, some ambivalent, and some getting very distracted by the “extra” genuflections. So, if the Priest mentions something in the sacristy after Mass, we just try to remember next time he says Mass and stick to bowing (as unnatural as it seems). In matters like these, although the rubrics are clearly pretty silly, the celebrant should always be obeyed.

    There’s an interesting analogue in Fortescue re the TLM, though — the opposite sort of thing — viz., when the Blessed Sacrament is NOT reposed at the altar, the Priest just bows, but the servers still genuflect every time they pass the center. Prima facie, this seems like a reverence to a God Who isn’t substantially there at the moment, which is odd … but there may be a good reason for it that I’m not aware of. There usually is.

  5. I always genuflect to the tabernacle, whether in Mass or not…Tis our identity as Latin Catholics…I’ve never been corrected by the priests when I’ve done this.

  6. THREEHEARTS says:

    As usual I have an opinion. What is all the fuss about? Is it really Lord Jesus Christ on the Altar? Are we to show our belief strongly are we not militant? If it is Christ and IF WE TRULY BELIEVE THIS AS A FACT WRITTEN IN OUR STONY HEARTS, then why the minimalism and the tepidity. Scripture tells us every knee shall bow (bend). Conscience dictates genuflection or as in the case of some byzantine east traditions, prostration. Christ climbed the Cross without a murmur, we genuflect without a discussion.

  7. Good post Father,

    A little story to confirm your take on this subject.

    I belong to pretty old-school, orthodox parish – Communion under one species, patens, minimal EMHC’s, “segregated” altar servers, traditional music, etc. 12 years ago, when I came to this parish, you would see most people genuflect when coming in and out of church, walking in front of the sanctuary, etc.

    About 6 years ago we were blessed with a very traditional pastor, who began saying Mass totally by the book. Some of the things he added were a gospel procession to the ambo, periods of silence, EMHC’s only enter the sanctuary after the priest’s Communion, etc. Of course, everytime he moved within the sanctuary and crossed the center, he would go in front of the altar, turn his back to the people and make a profound bow. Servers were to do the same.

    6 years later (and quite organically, I think), I see many parishioners (even daily Mass-goers) who have now adopted a profound bow when entering or leaving church and crossing the center of the sanctuary. Most EMHC’s have started this as well, before entering the sanctuary and when leaving the sanctuary. Now, I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure that they have started doing this after seeing priests and servers do this throughout Mass. They have assumed that the profound bow is the correct gesture and not the genuflection. I would say now parishioners are more likely to bow than to genuflect, not because they are lukewarm or don’t believe in the Real Presence, just because they are imitating what they think is the correct protocol.

  8. jkking says:

    I’m confused. I grew up in a pretty liberal parish, but for some reason I was always taught to genuflect, albeit only when entering a pew. In fact, I didn’t realize that people bowed to the tabernacle until I started going to EF Mass, and went back to OF with a clearer eye. Even so, I always genuflect when crossing the sanctuary, etc, even at OF. I just figured it was the proper thing to do.

    You mentioned that if someone came to the confessional and said they had genuflected before the tabernacle, you would not be sure if you might think he had sinned. Does this mean that genuflecting before the tabernacle, since it’s against the rubrics, may be sinful? If so, does that mean that other relatively minor infractions of the rubrics by the faithful, such as kneeling during the Agnus Dei, would also be potentially sinful?

  9. Jerome, when i’ve served the TLM with the Tabernacle not present, we normally bow, it doesn’t follow to genuflect to Someone who’s not there. Or if the Tabernacle is off to the side, we turn that direction.

  10. Jono says:

    Why not bow and then genuflect? The first reverences the altar, the second the the Blessed Sacrament present in the tabernacle. The first complies with the rubrics, while the second can be considered “legitimate custom” (as it has been done in churches since the institution of the tabernacle to reserve the Blessed Sacrament, probably even before it was legislated). You could even describe it as a local bit of “organic development” (which tends to add things rather than take them away).

  11. asperges says:

    Because of snow, I had the misfortune to have to attend a parish Mass for the first time in years on Sunday last, instead of the EF rite I normally travel to. The Blessed Sacrament was virtually ignored and the women laity strolled around the sanctuary with no sign of reverence or genuflection of any sort. The tabernacle was treated more like a bread cupboard.

    I try to be patient towards the new rite, but find it intolerable in so many ways: a constant irritation and filled with anomalies, omissions and absurdities. Having attended occasionally the local Cathedral for the (new) Mass, at least there is a semblance of ritual and order still, but, again, with armies of EMHC, there is always this feeling that the familiarity and casual approach (compared with the EF) and of course Communion in the hand is just plain wrong.

  12. asperges says:

    Jono: With respect, you cannot both bow and genuflect in the old rite. If the Blessed Sacrament is present, genuflect, if not, bow (Fortescue-O’Connell). It’s one or the other.

    In the “Good old days,” usually the tabernacle was on the main altar, so the problem did not arise. These days, it often does.

  13. ikseret says:

    Well, a genuflection includes and surpasses a bow, so it fulfills the law.
    So, whenever we are instructed to bow to the Blessed sacrament, can’t we substitute a bow as going beyond the legal minimum?

    Moreover, I like what Jono says about a “legitimate custom.”
    Genuflecting has been done since time immemorial.

    PS Sometimes I attend a Mass of Japanese Catholics. What really gets my goat is they bow to the Blessed sacrament. Now I know bowing is a Japanese custom of respect…but to other human beings. Would Japanese traditionally merely bow to the Emperor…or even the shogun? I think not. Unless they were on their knees with their heads to the ground those head would be off and rolling.

  14. Jono, at some parishes, we first kneel the the Blessed Sacrament, then bow to the altar.

  15. benyanke says:

    I know this is a little off topic, but I think I heard somewhere that you should also bow when passing in front of him (when he is sitting)? I’m not really sure, but I think that is correct. It might also be “local custom” too.

  16. Marcin says:

    Father, I have always opposed my lovely wife who maintained that Stargate is of no use and an altogether unnecessary diversion. Now I have one more proof of its depth and universal applicability. [LOL. Welllll, okay then.]

    Gratias ago.

  17. Leonius says:

    I always genuflect when going into and out of the sanctuary to do the readings during mass in the ordinary form, no one has ever rebuked me about it.

    When was this bowing business introduced?

    I remember doing my first holy communion in 1988 and I was taught to genuflect always.

  18. To my mind it is just plain wrong to “ignore” – to use a contentious word – the Blessed Sacrament in favor of some other thing which at that moment also is a sign of the presence of the Lord, namely the altar.

    Thank you. That’s what I’ve always thought.

  19. Nathan says:

    Interesting. Perhaps a bit more detail on the rubrics (or, more specifically, the Fortescue, et.al. explanations of the rubrics) for the TLM would add some food for thought–

    –In the EF, when the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Tabernacle on the Altar where the Mass is said, both priest and servers (inferior ministers) genuflect whenever passing the center of the altar, or when entering or leaving “sight of the altar” which means going out of the Sanctuary or attending to the Communion Rail.

    –When liturgical functions occur and the Blessed Sacrament is NOT reserved on the altar, the priest bows and servers genuflect only during the time between the processions in and out of the Sanctuary (e.g., during Holy Mass and Benediction. Servers bow at all other times, as in when lighting candles or setting up for Holy Mass.

    –At High Mass, the celebrant is incensed with three double swings after the initial incensation of the altar and after the incensation during the Offertory. All other ministers are incensed with one double swing, and the congregation with a single swing. Interestingly, the Blessed Sacrament is also incensed with three double swings.

    Does this, you think, point to a different conceptualization of both the Tabernacle and the celebrating priest between the EF and OF? One MC at the TLM told me (I was thurifer) that the priest was incensed similarly to the Blessed Sacrament because, once he enters the Sanctuary, he is fulfilling his function as an Alter Christus. By extension, one might argue the same for having servers (when the Sacrament is not reserved) genuflect at the center only when the priest is in the sanctuary fulfilling the same function.

    Father’s pithy description notwithstanding, was there an articulated rationale for replacing the genuflections with bows during Holy Mass in the OF? Did the Concilium really think that bending the knee before Christ was a “medieval accretion?”

    In Christ,

  20. John says:

    Don’t the rubrics also now say that we genuflect with only one knee when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed? Call me a liberal for breaking the rules, but I still double genuflect whenever I’m at Adoration.

  21. kyle says:

    We run into the same problem as david andrew above. We have a renovated sanctuary were the high altar was abanded, the cathedra put in its place, the tabernacle relocated to a side altar, and a free standing altar put in. When I serve at the EF we still genuflect at the altar as if the tabernacle was still there.

  22. matt1618 says:

    What frustrates me about this is that the GIRM actually says in many places that the ministers bow when they approach the altar, at the end of the procession (GIRM 49, 90, 122, 169, 173, etc.) with GIRM 274 giving the most forceful instruction not to genuflect “during the celebration of Mass itself”. But then the second half of 274 says you can genuflect and muddies the whole question. From the number of references alone, the GIRM makes a big statement toward bowing. But I don’t necessarily disagree with the point Fr. Z is making.

    Is the procession considered “during the celebration of Mass itself”?

  23. Our family attends a Catholic homeschooling co-op at a Novus Ordo parish in Maryland. The classes are all next door, but the nursery is in the basement of the church. When I herd my little 2-3 year old charges through the sanctuary on the way to/from lunch we always stop in front of the altar (with tabernacle behind on the high altar)and genuflect. It is so sweet to see these little ones kneeling and saying, “I love you Jesus,” while attempting to make the Sign of the Cross. If only we could get some of the grownups in the parish to see the proper way to treat Our Lord we might have a change in behavior!

  24. ipadre says:

    As long as Our Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament, I will genuflect and not liturgical terrorist will tell me otherwise! Either we believe or we don’t. 40 years of walking back and forth before the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle, without genuflecting has caused major confusion. In fact, I can remember many a priest, not genuflecting, before, during, inside out outside of the Mass. I will genuflect to my God!

  25. Henry Edwards says:

    ikseret: What really gets my goat is they bow to the Blessed sacrament.

    I recall a sermon in the U.S. when the celebrant said …. “If you’re ever in Japan, where the traditional sign of reverence is bowing, go ahead and bow to the Blessed Sacrament. But in our culture here, the tradition sign of reference is genuflecting, not bowing. So let’s not see anyone here in our church merely bowing to the Blessed Sacrament.”

  26. The Genuflection Tradition is not Universal to the Latin Church.

    Let’s take a moment to be a bit more precise about this issue. I may be wrong about this in general but I believe that of all the Latin Rites that exist it is only the Roman Rite (aka Tridentine) that has rigorous genuflection rules. So, if we are speaking about a tradition of the Latin Church then we have to affirm all the other traditions of all the other Latin Rites and not just the Roman Tradition. As a Dominican this is a particular issue. The Rubrics for the Dominican Rite (unless it is a Mass of Exposition) only call for Genuflection at the beginning and at the end of Mass. All other times both the major and minor ministers make a profound bow if the blessed sacrament is present on the alter reserved or not (save the cited exception). This is also the same for us going in and out of the chapel and choir, we genuflect upon entrance and upon exit but bow when crossing before the tabernacle or altar.

    For us, this is also extended to the Ordinary Form via our particular legitimate adaptations and our own immemorial tradition. The way the current rubrics of the Ordinary Form read concerning bowing and genuflecting during the Rite of Mass seems to me to be in keeping historically with the greater tradition of the Western Church when we take into account the variety of Liturgical Rites that exist in the West. This is especially interesting because the Dominican Rite was the official Rite used in many Countries and among a number of Religious Orders prior to the councilor revisions. Proportionally I believe it was nearly the highest most familiar Rite in the West second only to the Roman Rite. So, we have to be honest about the full scope of the tradition and not just what we were accustomed to in highly Romanized Catholic America. But even here there has been great plurality. In the US we have the highest concentration of Religious running parishes due to the missionary nature of North America. Thus at any given Sunday one could have attended a Roman Rite, Dominican Rite, Carmelite Rite or Franciscan Use in the same town. So, if you were at a parish that was run by Dominicans or Carmelites then you would not have necessarily learned to Genuflect except upon entering and exiting the Church which is still the case to this day.

  27. pelerin says:

    John at 4.19 mentions that the rubrics state that only one genuflexion is now to be done during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

    Like him I must confess that I too break the rules in this case and certainly do not feel guilty at this at all. (Should I?) When I went into a Church this evening in London I noticed that the Priest there also did a double genuflexion when he passed by in the Sanctuary as the Blessed Sacrament was being exposed there. So if Priests can continue to honour Our Lord in this way then surely we members of the laity can continue to do so too?

  28. Kate Asjes says:

    I went to a confirmation practice as a sponsor last year. Throughout the practice, the vicar at the cathedral, the pastor of this parish, 2 or 3 catechists (all female), and the musicians wondered around in the sanctuary, quitely chatting with one another in the “background” as each waited for his/her turn to instruct the students. Each of them crossed in front of the tabernacle repeatedly, sometimes within feet of it, and produced not a single genuflection among them. Then the the teens practiced filing in: 2 lines, bow in the aisle at the pew, proceeded down the pew to sit.

    At the end the catechists asked if anyone had questions. I asked why the students did not genuflect, since the tabernacle lamp was lit. The catechist answered that it is the tradition of this parish to bow and since the contirmation candidates are guests they must be repectful of parish’s customs. I began a follow-up question and the pastor stepped in and said that the GIRM instructs us to bow towaed the altar at Mass.

    I did a little research, and I think a distinction must be made here. Please correct me if I am wrong Fr. Z., but the rubrics are for the priest and ministers in the sanctuary, not for the lay people. While the rubrics do, indeed, specifically call for a bow to the altar, we lay people are not part of that, so we should be genuflecting. The priest cannot expand the rubrics for his gestures to the assembly in the nave, can he?

  29. An American Mother says:

    I’m going to start up two very small rabbits here . . .

    It’s customary in our parish to genuflect before the Tabernacle, which is at the head of the aisle on the Epistle side. Clergy and altar servers also bow before the altar while moving about the sanctuary.

    While our small chapel in the parish hall building was under construction, daily Mass was celebrated on a small altar at the head of the aisle on the Epistle or “south” side (it’s actually almost due east, on account of lot size and orientation constraints), next to the Tabernacle (not in front).

    When the Tabernacle is empty, one doesn’t genuflect there, correct? But if the lamp is illuminated, it is possible that the Sacrament is still contained therein (assuming only a small number of previously consecrated Hosts are needed for the congregation). Is the preferred attitude “when in doubt, genuflect”?

    Second question: — the Blessed Sacrament was not on the altar, but in the hands of the priest. So does one bow at the altar after receiving, on the way back to one’s pew? Especially when the small altar is right down at the head of the aisle and only arm’s length away, and you have to pass the altar so closely, it seems disrespectful to ignore it.

    This may be somewhat academic because the chapel was completed last weekend and daily Mass is back in the chapel. And the new chapel has the Tabernacle front and center, in a proper alcove with curtains, up behind the altar. But I suppose I might run across this problem elsewhere.

  30. Kate Asjes says:

    Sorry for all of the typos. I am new to this and submitted the comment without a preview. How embarrassing!

  31. I agree with others here who have clearly noted the confusion.

    Most people that I encounter either do not genuflect or fail to understand what direction and whom they are genuflecting.

    Another problem is that of nouveau styling of parishes with hidden tabernacles, sliding doors that partition the tabernacle from the main sanctuary, and other obscure provisioning for tabernacle placement. A faithful Catholic can never be sure where to find the tabernacle nor the lamp indicating if our Lord is “in”.

    If those of us who know what we are looking for are having a problem locating the tabernacle, imagine the lightly catechized, fallen away and even non-Catholic who participate, erroneously participate or do not even know how to participate in this simple posture practice.

    It may seem simple, but this needs some clear liturgical guidance or better yet architectural correction.

  32. Agnes of Prague says:

    “Unless you are carrying something big or precarious”…

    One of my favorite things, until very recently when we moved to a permanent chapel, was seeing the same layman every week carrying a three-foot box containing candlesticks: he needed to take them into the sacristy, reached only through the sanctuary, so he would walk into the sanctuary, stop, genuflect with this big, if not too precarious, load, and proceed onward.

  33. pelerin says:

    ‘A faithful Catholic can never be sure where to find the tabernacle’

    This brings to mind an occasion on entering a particular church when I looked around for the tabernacle and lamp. With difficulty I spotted a small glinting red light and genuflected accordingly only later to discover it was a red jewel which had caught the light on an elaborate now unused tabernacle on a side altar!

  34. I’m grateful for this issue being addressed. When I visit a Catholic church of the Roman Rite, common sense would dictate a universal custom for reverencing the Eucharistic presence, whether there’s a Mass or not, whether it’s one form or the other. It’s also confusing to altar servers who are trained to assist in both forms. In my last parish, I was a lay reader, and had to go through the training, where I got into it with the twit in charge about having to bow and being forbidden to genuflect, before approaching the altar. The “rules” it turns out, are written in such a way as to confirm this. The problem is, they don’t change the fact of the universal norm itself.

    So we tell the servers in training: “When in doubt, genuflect.” It seems to work for us so far.

  35. Fr Martin Fox says:

    The dilemma for me is that the General Instruction seems pretty clear–during (so this doesn’t apply to what the servers do before or after Mass) the liturgy, the ministers (meaning it doesn’t apply to those entering a pew) bow, rather than genuflect–when they would genuflect if it were either outside the liturgy–or they weren’t ministers taking part. (By “ministers” I mean the priest, deacon and any servers, etc.)

    Now, I would much prefer to make genuflection standard all the way through. It makes much more sense, and there’s no question this is confusing to lots of people. As someone said, folks bow when they should genuflect, because of this.

    But…..if I start doing this, I’m in conflict with the GIRM. I’m a man under authority. And it doesn’t help my cause when I have to turn around and enforce something in the GIRM (“Oh, I see–he’s fine with breaking the rules that he doesn’t like…it’s all about him and his power…”)

    Please, someone in Rome, please fix this! It really won’t be a big deal, please fix this!

  36. at3p says:

    For what it is worth, the “Novus Ordo” rubrics are identical to those of the Dominican Rite, which were unchanged since the 13th Century.

  37. dom says:

    Father from time to time I enjoy this forum and your insights. But I must say at times it seems too sarcastic or even resentful. Some of the tone in an attempt at dry humor seems more cynical (is “derogatory” too strong here??), especially when referring to the well-known foibles of the roll-out of the ordinary form these last 30 years plus or so in the Church, while anything attached to the extraordinary form tends to generate the opposite, i.e., euphoria or unseemly triumphalism. As a Catholic able to embrace both forms I believe the joy of the extraordinary form may thereby be hidden or even completely blocked. Just a suggestion…

  38. As a celebrant it can be difficult to know what to do. Bowing at the beginning of Mass is reverent but seems inadequate and inappropriate – it just doesn’t fit with how I was raised! That said the GIRM is clear but I genuflect when I am on my own and bow when I am with other priests or rather follow their lead – it looks wrong to have some bowing and some genuflecting. I agree with some posters above that there is a knock-on affect for the people. Here in some of our Capuchin churches (such as my own) we have daily Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament by means of a ‘double-walled’ Tabernacle – the doors open on a glass barrier – with access to the Ciboria at the back. (I don’t know if that’s legal) Anyway some of our friars have not only stopped genuflecting even on one knee but they don’t even bow profoundly – they bow their heads! I have noticed this because I make a double genuflection (both knees) and bow my head too – that’s the Franciscan and Catholic tradition and the Frans have been more influential in Ireland than the Doms. At some point I will have to mention this to them but I don’t want to start a war. Some of the laity have started to copy them (the majority genuflect). So I echo Fr. Fox above – we need the Vatican to sort out this confusion. Sorry for the long post.

  39. MrsHall says:

    First off, I am another wife who scoffs Stargate as a useless and unnecessary diversion. I had to email this page to my husband, who will no doubt cast it up to me the next time I roll my eyes at Stargate! :)

    But seriously, I am only a convert but I have grown weary of the “profound bow” business. He is my KING, not just someone I respect or someone in a higher position of authority than me. When I was confirmed this year we confirmandi were part of the procession and the DRE reminded us repeatedly to make a “profound bow” as we passed the altar and the Tabernacle behind it. Thankfully I was last in line so I could easily genuflect without holding up the show too much. I always genuflect before receiving the Eucharist as well, but I think most people just chalk it up to me being an overzealous convert. As I think about it I have never seen Father pass the Tabernacle without making a full genuflection, and that is true of a few of the older men who serve at Low Mass (I believe they are all Knights of Columbus). However, the typical EMC gives a mere nod of the head. Better than nothing, I guess, but if a Goa’uld can get it right…???

  40. As I mentioned earlier, the tradition is much broader than what most of the posters here seem to believe. If we wanted to get particularly snippy it could be easily said that the constant genuflecting before the tabernacle was a recent innovation even in the Roman Rite. If we consider the entire history of just the Roman Rite then this is obviously the case relative to that whole history. A true historical perspective is necessary to judge this issue that encompases the whole of the Latin tradition. The current Rubrics for the Ordinary Form are what they are and they seem to reflect an attempt to form a single general norm from the plurality of ancient Latin rites and not just the reformed Roman Rite of Trent. Considering the complete tradition of the Latin Church it would be absurd to say that a genuflection before the tabernacle every time it is passed is a universal tradition. The reality seems to be that the opposite is actually the case.

    Further, there is the secondary issue of obedience. The Rubrics for the Ordinary Form are what Rome has approved and it is improper, at the least, to violate those rubrics. There is no legitimate cause in this particular case because the universal tradition of the Latin Church is variable from rite to rite. To violate these rubrics in the Ordinary Form would be no different than adding genuflections to the Dominican Rite which would be absurd and an abuse. We can’t let our subjective piety dictate which rubrics we are going to follow and which we are not going to follow or else we are no different than those who use glass chalices.

  41. MrsHall says:

    BTW, Fr. Z, I linked to this on my blog page.