The genuflection, a sign of adoration, is reserved for the Blessed Sacrament
We continue our journey into the church. We’ve blessed ourselves with holy water and found a place to sit. Now as people enter their seats, they usually genuflect.
We often see people genuflect in the church. Sometimes we see them bow. But what action is appropriate when?
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal tells us that “A genuflection… signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil… all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession.” (article 274) If you are genuflecting when entering the church on Sunday, therefore, you should be facing the tabernacle and the Blessed Sacrament that you are reverencing.
“A bow signifies reverence and honour shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. There are two kinds of bows: a bow of the head and a bow of the body… A bow of the body, that is to say a profound bow, is made to the altar…” (article 275). Therefore it is appropriate for anyone entering the sanctuary, such as Ministers of the Word and Ministers of Communion, to bow to the altar as they approach. In churches where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel, such as in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the practice would be to genuflect to the tabernacle as you pass, then bow to the altar as you enter the main of the church.
In a church such as ours, it can get a little confusing considering that our tabernacle is located in the church, but not in the sanctuary itself. What’s important is to that we take note of what we are bowing or genuflecting to.