Catholics: Do You Know When to Genuflect?
Bad practices have become the norm in the liturgy, with half the congregation doing one thing and the other not. On Holy Thursday most people don’t go down on two knees before the altar of repose. On Good Friday they genuflect to a bare and empty tabernacle. Have they not been instructed about the correct procedure? From experience, we don’t think catechists can educate us on this. Priests should take on the responsibility, perhaps for a couple of minutes after the homily. Can we not have a general reverent manner of practising our amazing Catholic faith?
Many Catholics seem to be confused about genuflecting in general. This could be one of the reasons prompting Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg to call for a restoration of eucharistic spirituality when he spoke to his clergy on Holy Thursday in 2010.
He told his priests and deacons that eucharistic adoration should become part and parcel of our way of being Church and, among other things, observed that many no longer genuflect, not even a bow that acknowledges the presence of Christ in the tabernacle.
He indicated that priests should pray with the altar servers before entering the sanctuary for the Holy Mass because such a practice would stay with the servers long after they have graduated from the sacristy.
Priest’s Must Lead their Flock
He also said that it would be ideal to restore for the faithful prayers before Mass and thanksgiving after Mass to help all focus on the real presence. He said a lot more. The thrust of it all was that priests must take the lead and restore their flock’s awe and respect for the Real Presence. The archbishop’s concerns might well be those of all the Church today.
Regarding your question: it is no longer necessary to go down on two knees in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. The document Eucharistiae sacramentum, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship in June 1973 states: Genuflection in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed for public adoration, is on one knee (section 84).
When the tabernacle is empty, as it is on Good Friday, it is sufficient to bow to the cross.
If there is confusion about such matters, it is likely that the clergy have neglected their role to provide guidance on how the people in the pews can be fully integrated into the liturgical action.