From a reader:
When I was in grade school (1990′s), I was taught by a very devout teacher that one should genuflect (kneel?) on both knees with a slight bow of the head when entering/leaving the pew during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I have never really seen this any place else, or even heard it discussed. I don’t recall my grandfather ever doing this, and he spent at least an hour or more before the Blessed Sacrament each week and went to grade school in the 1930′s when all but one of his teachers were nuns. What is the proper way to genuflect before the exposed Blessed Sacrament? Thanks!
It is possible, even probable, that there were some variations of practice when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. Also, conferences of bishops can, by and large, determine proper practices for Catholics in their regions. If memory serves, some bishops conferences have eliminated the distinction of the “double-genuflection” when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. FAIL.
The way I learned, and the parish where I learned was an exemplar of traditional liturgical custom and practice, was as you described. This is what I do, both knees permitting. No bishops’ conference will convince me that it is better not to do so.
That said, I have seen people genuflect on one knee when coming and going and haven’t had the impulse to jump on them. They seemed genuinely reverent, which is what matters most. I will continue to use both knees, again, both knees permitting. When they at last don’t permit, I’ll find another way to express reverence.
It is good that we have distinct gestures for different situations. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is special. The special time in a church, the privilege of a view of the very Eucharist we otherwise know is the tabernacle, deserves recognition. Gestures help to reinforce our Faith and to give witness of Faith to others. Children learn a great deal from subtle differences in our gestures. They learn from sloppiness, as well. They learn from minimalism, too.
It seems to me that a double-genuflection is an appropriate gesture, given that total prostration and then crawling backwards out of church isn’t always possible.