Bow, Genuflect or both

Do I bow or Genuflect?


We were always taught, bow to Altar and genuflect to Blessed Sacrament.  Simple enough to write, but in reality…

#49 of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) says:

49. When they have arrived at the sanctuary, the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers reverence the altar with a profound bow.

Other places in the GIRM actually contradict this, but in the section of the GIRM giving the instructions for celebrating Mass, this is the instruction. Later it is clearly stated that one should always genuflect when passing the Blessed Sacrament, unless you are part of a procession.  Then there are sections with exceptions for age.

I think that there is nothing worse than a sloppy or partial genuflection and in the instruction to Deacons about kneeling during the words of institution we find the option to stand with a profound bow when presider genuflects of kneeling is not possible as a result of age, injury or other medical reason.

What does this tell us?  Well the Church is in transition.  It might be a long transition with the change in Pope a few years ago, who knows where it will end up and I think more importantly, what we do has to make sense.

Things that don’t make sense:

  •  Genuflecting approaching Tabernacle holding a ciborium filled with the Blessed Sacrament.  Your reverence should be focused on the presence of our God in your hands to say nothing about the risk of spilling!
  • Tabernacles behind altars.  I say that in a Church where I have the Mass in the Extraordinary Form and it isn’t moving, but creates too much of a conflict with the altar and tabernacle lined up as just this blog on proper reverence shows us.
  • Partial genuflections in mid step not really turning to tabernacle, how is that showing reverence?
So what do I think? Yes, I realize that this is the only place that what I think really matters, but for what it is worth…

Approaching the altar, at the edge of sanctuary before mass, we are gathering at the table, we should reverence the table, the reason we are there.

Heading to pick up the Blessed Sacrament, I genuflect in front of the tabernacle and when reposing the Blessed Sacrament I genuflect before leaving the the tabernacle.

During Mass, I stop and make a profound bow to the altar as I pass in front of it.  When heading to Ambo, I never pass between the Altar and Tabernacle because either action would turn my back on the other.

I am sure there are people that can show how this is wrong, but my point is a celebration that flows in and of itself has a reverence.  When I meet a deacon at the center of the Altar, there is no way for us to reverently genuflect just do to the age of most deacon’s knees. (Didn’t want to say Deacon, was old.)  In my opinion, a profound bow shows required reverence.