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Should I genuflect or bow to the tabernacle?

Full Question

As a lector, I was told by a new priest at our parish not to genuflect to the tabernacle, but to instead bow to the altar when I go up to read. Our tabernacle is off to one side , so I usually walk up that side, genuflect to the tabernacle, then go up to read. Am I being ridiculous?


Continue to do as you have been doing. If you saw Jesus standing there, you would not ignore him and then bow to the altar. Nowhere will you find any official Church document directing one to ignore the Presence of our Lord in the tabernacle. Sometimes we priests don’t see the forest for the trees.



  1. william neal Reply

    it sounds to me that the priest is trying to “rush” through Mass and get it over with. You know, to preserve those precious few seconds out of our busy lives.

  2. Ron Naquin Reply

    I am an Instituted Acolyte. During my formation and afterward, I have been instructed to bow (reverence) the altar during the mass. This is because the altar is the focal point of the sacrifice of the mass. Where Jesus is made truly present before us. Outside of the mass, the tabernacle is reverenced with a profound bow or genuflect. Of course, every church parish has their own local customs. Follow the instructions of your pastor and or bishop.

    1. JOY Reply

      Same as we were told.

  3. Mary McGrory Reply

    At Garabandal, Our Lady said less and less importance is being paid to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, I believe she is right. I think we should genuflect if we are able every time we pass the tabernacle, kneel as much as we are able and bow otherwise, but always showing great adoration and attention to Jesus’ presence. ‘God only on the cross lay hid from view, but here lies hid both his manhood too’ from the hymn Oh Godhead hid devoutly I adore Thee, which gives us a good understanding of the Eucharist, I think.

  4. Rudy Reply

    “If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is situated in the sanctuary, the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.

    Otherwise, all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession.

    Ministers carrying the processional cross or candles bow their heads instead of genuflecting.”

  5. Matevz Hribernik Reply

    The general instruction of the Roman Missal clearly states that while mass is celebrated, the focal point of the mass is the Altar (the one that was kissed by the priest at the start of the mass, it is representing the Christ during the Mass). Altar is representing Christ during the mass, the sacrifice of mass is going to happen there, that is why the Altar is more important than the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle. Although a bow can be allowed to the tabernacle (we perform it, but only altar boys due to the nature of the sanctuary and sacristy location, but we all genuflect at the beginning and end of mass), the genuflection would not be advised, precisely because of the rule 274. But if you bow to the tabernacle you should always bow to the Altar too. It is funny because you don’t have that problem when celebrating the extraordinary form. 😉

    274. A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, 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.

    During Mass, three genuflections are made by the priest celebrant: namely, after the showing of the host, after the showing of the chalice, and before Communion. Certain specific features to be observed in a concelebrated Mass are noted in their proper place (cf. nos. 210-251).

    If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.

    Otherwise all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession.

    Ministers carrying the processional cross or candles bow their heads instead of genuflecting.

    I think this answer can be altered a bit because it can be misleading.

  6. Debra Reply

    Actually, I believe this is incorrect. If I understand the question correctly, the OP is talking about going forward to read as a lector *during* Mass. This is covered by the GIRM which states we should stop and make a profound bow before proceeding into the sanctuary, and again before returning to one’s seat. When Mass is not in progress, the genuflection is more appropriate.

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