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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 01 Jan 2002

Bowing/Genuflecting at the Altar QUESTION from Sandy April 17, 1999
What is the current teaching of the Papacy dealing with either bowing or genuflecting to the altar or the tabernacle. I seem to be getting conflicting reports from the priests in this town. I thought you were to bow to the altar but HAD to genuflect to the tabernacle because of the presence of our Lord. As well, I thought that the priests should genuflect to the altar during the consecretaion for the same reason. Any help on what Rome dictates and where it can be found would be very helpful. Thank you and God Bless. ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on April 17, 1999
Dear Sandy, Thanks for your question. The the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship prepared an INSTRUCTION CONCERNING WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY.. titled; Inaestimabile Donum. This document was approved and confirmed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II April 17, 1980. In it we read; 26. The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained. This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless. 27. If anything has been introduced that is at variance with these indications, it is to be corrected. The Ceremonial of Bishops is another authoritative publication with the force of law. In it we find the following instructions; A genuflection, made by bending only the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and is therefore reserved for the Blessed Sacrament, whether exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, and for the holy cross from the time of the solemn adoration in the liturgical celebration of Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. [CB 69] No one who enters a church should fail to adore the Blessed Sacrament either by visiting the Blessed Sacrament chapel or at least by genuflecting. Similarly, those who pass before the Blessed Sacrament genuflect except when they are walking in procession. [CB 71] The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) is another document, with the force of law, which governs worship. A copy is found at the beginning of every copy of the Sacramentary. It's the book used by the priest at every Mass. We find in the GIRM the following instruction; Genuflections and Bows 233. Three genuflections are made during the Mass: after the showing of the eucharistic bread, after the showing of the chalice, and before communion. If there is a tabernacle with the blessed sacrament in the sanctuary, a genuflection is made before and after Mass and whenever anyone passes in front of the Blessed Sacrament. 234. There are two kinds of bow, a bow of the head and a bow of the body: a) A bow of the head is made when the three divine Persons are named together and at the name of Jesus, Mary and the saint in whose honor Mass is celebrated. b) A bow of the body, or profound bow, is made: toward the altar if there is no tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament; during the prayers, Almighty God, cleanse and Lord God, we ask You to receive; within the profession of faith at the words, by the power of the Holy Spirit; in Eucharistic Prayer I (Roman Canon) at the words, Almighty God, we pray. The same kind of bow is made by the deacon when he asks the blessing before the gospel. In addition, the priest bends over slightly as he says the words of the Lord at the consecration. I hope this helps. In Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

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