Our morceaux over the past few weeks are beginning to consider the initial ceremonies of the Mass. As the procession of ministers reaches the sanctuary (the area of the church which includes the altar), various gestures of reverence take place. Let’s look at the first of these:
Liturgical norms call for the priest, deacon and other ministers who are not carrying anything to genuflect toward the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle if they pass near or in front of it on their way to the sanctuary. In Western culture “bending the knee” is traditionally the most profound mark of humility and respect given to someone else. Once the bread and wine have been changed into Christ’s Eucharistic Body and Blood, this most important sign of reverence is reserved for it. Liturgical law directs the principal priest-celebrant at Mass also to genuflect after the institution of the Eucharist and just before his reception of holy communion.
Remember, the Church asks all the healthy among us to genuflect toward the Eucharist at certain times. We should do this with attention and devotion, facing the tabernacle (not in another direction!), and going down on one knee with clear respect in our demeanor. Many people also make the sign of the cross while genuflecting, although this gesture here is not part of the Church’s traditional practice. We’re not trying to draw attention to ourselves, but emphasize instead the importance of the Blessed Sacrament.