QUAERITUR: Must we not genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament during Mass?

From a reader:

The GIRM instructs that during mass no genuflections are to be made toward the tabernacle for the priest, the deacon and the ministers.

Are the ministers the altar boys, or just the instituted lector and the acolyte? Is it possible, or permissible to genuflect during mass when crossing the tabernacle for the altar boys like in the Vetus Ordo (this particular tabernacle was not moved, it still is on the main altar in the middle of the apse)? The parish priest is very supportive, and is in favor of this change. We both think this would be a good starting point for the “mutual enrichment” of the to forms of the Latin Rite.

I have written about this HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and etc.

Yes, I think we have to consider the altar boys to be included in the “ministers” at the altar.

That said, and I’ll go out on a limb now, even though I am a Say The Black and Do The Red sort of guy, I’m all for starting up a contrary custom in accord with canons 25 and 26. After 30 years, we’ll have a legal custom in force.

When I was in my U.S seminary hell-hole, we were instructed on how to establish contra legem custom. We weren’t instructed in this for the sake of detail or mere knowledge. The instruction was for the sake of providing a canonical basis for abuses (e.g., altar girls – this was before the disastrously bad interpretation of canon 230 of the 1983 Code).

Progressivists consistently broke the law concerning, for example, Communion in the hand and females serving in the sanctuary.  They did so long-enough that Rome fecklessly confirmed their abuses.  Those were bad years.

Now we must work to bring ourselves back into continuity.

It is absurd that ministers should entirely ignore the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle in the sanctuary during Mass. Ab-SURD!

Yes, we know the arguments: In our Eucharistic celebration the assembly should be mindful of the altar and then the Host which will be on the altar after the consecration.  Yes, I know that Easterners bow with just as much reverence as Latins.

I say genuflect.  The Blessed Sacrament is RIGHT THERE!  People see that the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament, with presence lamp and/or veil, is RIGHT THERE.  If we obviously diminish our gestures of adoration in front of the eyes of a congregation, the message they will imbibe over time is that we don’t pay attention to the presence of Christ in the tabernacle, that perhaps the Eucharist isn’t all that important after all, that a sanctuary, indeed even the whole church, isn’t a sacred space, that we don’t have to bend the knee to God….

Moreover, we have now, side by side, both the Novus Ordo and the Usus Antiquior.  The Holy Father, in establishing juridically that the Roman Rite has two forms, also spoke of a “mutual enrichment” of the one and the other.  I usually speak and write in terms of a “gravitational pull”.  This is an instance in which the traditional practice of the Usus Antiquior, the older form of Holy Mass with its genuflections, must have all the gravity pulling on the Novus Ordo.

So… ubi maior, minor cessat.

 

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32 Responses to QUAERITUR: Must we not genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament during Mass?

  1. Works for me. I’ve never been able to understand the rationale behind venerating the altar but NOT venerating the Blessed Sacrament.

    And by the way, in churches where the tabernacle is behind the altar, any time the priest passes between the altar and the tabernacle and bows to the altar, that requires him to raise his butt to the Blessed Sacrament. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who sees a problem with this.

  2. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Miss Anita, that is why at my Dominican parish the priests always pass in front of the altar during Mass. They are then bowing to both altar and tabernacle.

  3. Matt R says:

    Our pastor-who is a canonist, so he takes a very by-the-book approach-does not object to genuflections towards the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. When he moved the celebrant and deacons’ chairs to the side of the sanctuary, I asked (as the oldest server, my voice carries some weight) the boys to genuflect, if moving back-and-forth across the sanctuary (say to the sacristy after Communion, and then to their chairs). If they are holding the Missal for the Collect and Post-Communion, I am thinking about asking them to bow to the altar.
    Related question: Are altar servers supposed to bow, or genuflect, when not carrying anything in the procession and recession? I occasionally have nothing on Sunday processions, and on days I serve as the thurifer, I leave the sanctuary empty-handed. It’s pretty silly to bow, but I’d like to know what the rubrics say, before asking my pastor about it.

  4. wmeyer says:

    And by the way, in churches where the tabernacle is behind the altar, any time the priest passes between the altar and the tabernacle and bows to the altar, that requires him to raise his butt to the Blessed Sacrament. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who sees a problem with this.

    You are not alone! I raised that question some time ago, and I think it was Henry Edwards who replied that the tabernacle should (obviously) take priority.

  5. chantgirl says:

    Have patience with me because I’m slow. Am I to understand that a liturgical abuse can become acceptable if it is done for a certain period of time?! The Mass wreckovators had no problem throwing out liturgical practices that were hundreds (and more) years old, but could get an abuse accepted if it went on long enough? I have to be misreading this, otherwise disobedience becomes acceptable merely based on a time table. Talk about gaming the system!

  6. MWindsor says:

    Maybe I’m over-thinking this, but…

    I go to a big suburban parish that is, well, a bit lacking in respect for the Eucharist. This attitude is from the top down. One of my wife’s friends told the pastor that EM’s were going to the tabernacle and collecting hosts, and his repsonse was, “so what?” We tend, therefore, to do things that point out the necessary respect. We don’t push anyone else, and we’ve given up talking to the parish hierarchy (choice of word intentional).

    I genuflect before receiving the Body of Christ from the priest, and bow before receiving the Blood of Christ from the deacon. I’ve taught my kids to do the same. We also genuflect if the Sacrament passes before us within 8 or 10 feet. We genuflect as we pass the tabernacle outside of Mass (the tabernacle is off in a side chapel).

    The lack of respect is sometimes rather shocking, both from the laity and from three of the four priests. But is all this somehow incorrect?

  7. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “I’m all for starting up a contrary custom in accord with canons 25 and 26. After 30 years, we’ll have a legal custom in force.” Hmmm.

    SPADE: Hmmm.
    DETECTIVE: What’s that mean?
    SPADE: It means, Hmmm.

  8. Sieber says:

    A church which I attend has the tabernacle in place while the altar table has been moved forward. This means that when Mass is celebrated all ministers have their backs to the tabernacle which is ignored, except when extra ciboria are retrieved for communion.

  9. Inigo says:

    Thank you Father for the answer! And also thank you for the tip in Rome (we didn’t have the chance though to go the restaurant).

  10. wmeyer says:

    Sieber, I have just been discussing with my local priest that very issue. He was trained that except during the Mass, he should pass before the altar, so he is facing both. During the Mass, however, the priest must reverence the altar, and as I understand it, there is no solution, in the OF.

  11. acardnal says:

    I wonder if using a tabernacle veil would ameliorate this unfortunate circumstance?

  12. Michelle F says:

    I’m glad that this was posted because now I know that I’m not the only one having problems with the “ignore the Tabernacle” instruction.

    I also think this may be one of the rare times when the sensus fidelium is working correctly, and Rome should heed it. The Blessed Sacrament is God Himself in Person, in the Flesh, seated in front of the congregation; He is just as physically present as the priest and the others in the Sanctuary. To ignore Him, and/or offer the Mass while one’s back is turned to Him isn’t simply absurd in my opinion; it is contemptuous.

  13. acardnal says:

    Banjo pickin girl says:
    12 November 2012 at 12:56 pm
    Miss Anita, that is why at my Dominican parish the priests always pass in front of the altar during Mass. They are then bowing to both altar and tabernacle.

    That makes sense before Mass, but if he is celebrating the NO facing the congregation, isn’t his backside facing the Tabernacle while saying Mass? That’s a problem.

  14. acardnal says:

    Anecdotelly, when I have attended Novus Ordo Masses celebrated by priests of Opus Dei, they placed a small triptych (something like a small iconostasis) in front of the tabernacle, which was always in the center behind the altar. Then, if and when the priest needed to open the tabernacle during Mass, he set the triptych aside to open/close the tabernacle door. Using this method, the tabernacle was “shielded” from the priest’s backside.

  15. acardnal says:

    sic: anecdotally

  16. acardnal says: Anecdotelly, when I have attended Novus Ordo Masses celebrated by priests of Opus Dei, they placed a small triptych (something like a small iconostasis) in front of the tabernacle, which was always in the center behind the altar. Then, if and when the priest needed to open the tabernacle during Mass, he set the triptych aside to open/close the tabernacle door. Using this method, the tabernacle was “shielded” from the priest’s backside.

    Which of course is just one more example of how, by trying to get rid of the traditional Mass and bringing in a new one cobbled up by a committee, we made things a lot harder than they needed to be. Once again, I say, shelve the Mass of Paul VI and just go back to the traditional Mass. And I don’t mind if I’m in the minority on that.

  17. acardnal says:

    I’m with you Miss Anita Moore, O.P. I prefer the TLM/EF.

  18. Golatin5048 says:

    I have faced this problem for years. I am an altar server in my parish. When I serve Holy Mass, I ALWAYS genuflect whenever crossing, entering, or leaving the Sanctuary. During mass, there are not many times when I cross the tabernacle, which is how our pastor wants it. The times when I do cross, I always genuflect toward the tabernacle, which is behind the altar. It always seemed natural me to do this, for our Lord is present in the tabernacle, (Note: This is during the Preparation of the gifts), right there. Why would I ignore Jesus? The only exception in which I bow to the altar is during the Agnus Dei when I give the priest a pyx, and/or bowls for communion.

  19. wmeyer says:

    Golatin5048, it makes good sense to me. What I have difficulty with is how often I see ill-trained servers who cross the center of the church, and do not bow or genuflect in either direction.

  20. wmeyer says:

    Once again, I say, shelve the Mass of Paul VI and just go back to the traditional Mass.

    Miss Anita Moore, once again, I am in complete agreement. I am so tired of walking into a neighboring parish, and finding a Mass I barely recognize.

  21. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Michelle, the sensus fidelium, while not infallible, works nearly always.

    Only it must be the right sensus fidelium, not the fashionable opinion of the opinionmakers, nor (but that even is a more rare thing than some might think) the thinly-veiled excuse for sinful behavior, nor some think that the people might say because it is the fashionable phrase for something they really feel but which is something different.

    But if it is the right sensus fidelium, then it is often right; and to genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament, or to view the Mass versus orientum also and perhaps primarily as a Mass versus Sanctissimum in tabernaculo, are among such things.

  22. Imrahil says:

    nor some *thing*. Sorry.

  23. jflare says:

    Ahem! For all that I’m better acquainted with the versus populum method of offering Mass, I’d say this matter offers ample cause to return to ad orientem Mass, regardless of Form. If the priest faces God in the tabernacle while praying the canon, problem solved.
    ..It also does lend creedence to the notion of the traditional Mass, wherein the altar, being set against the back of the celebration area, cannot seem to take precedence over the Lord in the tabernacle because, well, they’re in the same place anyway.

    I must say though, that the whole idea of bowing to the altar in the sanctuary has never quite made sense to me. Yes, the altar WILL be the place where the Lord offers Himself in sacrifice. But in a practical sense, that only happens for a few minutes during Mass. As Fr Z notes, the Lord is ALREADY PRESENT, and what’s more present ALL the TIME in the tabernacle.

    It seems to me to make sense that, if He is there in the flesh all the time, it makes sense to genuflect to Him, not bow to the place where He is offered in sacrifice..only every now and then, by comparison anyway.

  24. jflare says:

    I think I should add this:
    I have come across a very few circumstances where the tabernacle has been placed in a side chapel, not as a means of concealing Him–though some may dispute that–but as a means of offering people a place to pray more quietly or Adore Him separately.

    In that case, I think it would be good if a person would be in the habit of bowing toward the altar, if only because the location of the tabernacle may not be immediately obvious, or else the circumstances may make genuflecting..impractical. I’ll admit I haven’t the faintest idea how that would come about, but I imagine someone has found a situation that applies….

  25. Margaret says:

    Which of course is just one more example of how, by trying to get rid of the traditional Mass and bringing in a new one cobbled up by a committee, we made things a lot harder than they needed to be.
    Except that the triptych is not particularly “hard,” in practice. I’ve been attending Masses in centers of Opus Dei for retreats and workshops for 20+ years now, and I can only recall a small handful of times the priest needed to retrieve additional hosts from the tabernacle. It’s a reverent solution to a sticky problem.

  26. JonPatrick says:

    We do not necessarily need to throw out the Ordinary Form, we just need to go back to celebrating Mass ad orientam, this would solve the problem of the priest with his back to the tabernacle.

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  28. Dan says:

    And speaking of Canon Law,

    “Can. 846 §1. In celebrating the sacraments the liturgical books approved by competent authority are to be observed faithfully; accordingly, no one is to add, omit, or alter anything in them on one’s own authority.”

  29. iPadre says:

    We have seen the results of Pius XII’s warning about separating the altar, tabernacle and crucifix. Many people, including priests, walk by the Blessed Sacrament as if He were not there – before, during and after Mass. Why do we learn only after disaster strikes?

  30. Sissy says:

    jflare, I encountered the problem you mention when I first started attending my current church. It’s one of those modern round churches with the altar in the center of the nave, surrounded by pews. When I first came into the nave, I would bow to the altar, as had been my practice in the Anglican church. But I soon began to wonder if it made sense, because I quickly learned the tabernacle was in a glass-enclosed reserve chapel off to one side. I observed someone bowing in the direction of the reserve chapel and the light came on. I’m one of those who appreciates the tabernacle being in the reserve chapel; I pray there frequently, and it is quiet. I’d prefer the tabernacle behind the altar AND a quiet church to pray in, but that isn’t an option – our nave is like Times Square. So, having a quiet chapel is appreciated.

  31. wmeyer says:

    …our nave is like Times Square

    I wish that were a rare problem. So many behave as though they were in the parish hall.

  32. Hidden One says:

    As much as the final clause of GIRM section 274, the third paragraph thereof is one of the more loathsome of the rubrics, I’d like to add to Dan‘s mentioning of can. 846 §1. Elsewhere it is written that the people of God have a right to the celebration of Mass according to the rubrics.

    From a different angle, I find it difficult to justify ever saying that it’s alright to break a rubric because I think that it’s a bad rubric. There are a lot of principles that instantly go out the window the very first time you do that, including “Say the Black – Do the Red.”

    What I would (strongly) support is a petition to the CDW for an emendation to GIRM 274. I will have a Mass said for whatever person (e.g., Bp. XYZ) or group (e.g., XYZCCB) manages to get it changed.

    Postscript: I’m a very strongly pro-EF person. I loathe the NO rubric about not genuflecting to the tabernacle during Mass. When I’m walking through a church outside of Mass I genuflect at every remote occasion of having a conceivably valid reason to genuflect. But when the Church tells me to bow, I bow. After all, that’s why I learned to genuflect.