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Songs With God in First Person
And More on Genuflections
ROME, OCT. 9, 2012 (Sept. 25 column on genuflections during Mass a reader commented: "A thought on your note about not genuflecting if the tabernacle is close by the altar: I have regarded the altar table as distinct from the tabernacle. They are two different places, a place of sacrifice and a place of reservation, with two different purposes. I genuflect before leaving the place of sacrifice and walk to a different place, albeit a few steps, and genuflect entering the place of reservation."
I would not quite agree with this practice. It is true that altar and tabernacle are two distinct places. It is also true, however, that going to the tabernacle to obtain extra hosts during the fraction rite at Mass is not a distinct ritual moment but a practical need within the Eucharistic celebration itself.
In this case I believe that the liturgy would not encourage adding more ritual gestures than are strictly necessary. At this moment the norms concentrate ritual attention upon the recently consecrated hosts upon the altar. The deacon or priest who goes to the tabernacle always remains within the one celebration and within his ministerial functions.
It is important to remember that while ritual gestures are based on doctrine they are not in themselves formal doctrinal statements and also obey practical considerations. For example, the general rule that those carrying objects in a procession do not genuflect (Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 70) cannot be interpreted as saying that holding a candle outweighs adoration of the divine presence. It is a practical norm that ensures a smooth flow of the ritual gestures.
Let's return to the case at hand. I say that if the tabernacle is within the sanctuary, then the deacon or priest should not make a genuflection before leaving the altar nor on opening the tabernacle, nor on placing the ciboria upon the corporal alongside the other hosts. If the tabernacle is outside the sanctuary, he should only genuflect on opening the tabernacle door. Likewise, if the need for more hosts were to arise during the distribution of Communion itself, he should genuflect on opening the door.
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