Archive | 3:22 am

Genuflection 101

12 Apr

Not long ago someone posed this question to me:

I know we are always to genuflect when entering and leaving the church for Mass. But are we supposed to genuflect when coming for non-Masses, such as parent meetings for Confirmation?

This is a very good question for all of us to consider, even if we automatically genuflect whenever we enter a church. “Automatically” could mean a virtue, a godly habit. But it could also mean a mindless act that we do without considering why we do it. So, let’s look at this issue a little more closely.

Genuflection is the bending of the right knee to the floor and then rising again to a standing position as an act of reverence toward Our Lord, who is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the most Blessed Sacrament. As St. Paul wrote, even at the name of Jesus, every knee must bend (Phil. 2:10). Even more, we should bend the knee before the Lord Himself!

We genuflect upon entering a church not strictly because it’s a church building, but because Our Lord is present there in the tabernacle. Typically the tabernacle is in the center of the church, or in some other prominent place indicated by a sanctuary lamp that is kept burning. It is to this Presence that we genuflect.

A couple points. Obviously we reverence the Eucharist during Mass. You will notice, for example, that the priest genuflects immediately after the bread and wine are consecrated, as he acknowledges that Our Lord is now present on the altar.

Christ’s presence in the Eucharist doesn’t end when Mass is over. Hosts remaining after Mass are kept in the tabernacle, both for adoration of Our Lord outside of Mass, and also to give to the sick and dying as needed. Sometimes a large host is exposed in a monstrance for adoration, but even when the Eucharist is simply reserved in the tabernacle we should adore Him there, and one way we do that is by genuflecting when we come into His presence.

It follows, then, that we would genuflect upon entering the presence of the Lord when we walk into a church, regardless of whether we’re there for Mass, for private prayer before Our Lord, or for some other parish event.

The only exception to that would be in the unusual case of the Blessed Sacrament not being reserved in the church. For example, sometimes the Sacrament is removed when the church is being cleaned or renovated, or when the church building is being used for a special (non-liturgical) event such as a concert.

And of course the tabernacle is empty on Good Friday, so this past Friday if we attended Good Friday services we simply bowed to the altar as we entered the church. Whenever the Sacrament is not present in the tabernacle, the sanctuary lamp will not be burning.

Genuflecting may seem like a small thing, but this act of reverence is a building block that will leads to an ever more profound awareness of God’s presence in our midst!