In the celebration of Mass we raise our hearts, minds and voices in worship of God. As creatures composed of body and spirit, our prayer is not confined to our minds, hearts and voices, but is expressed by our bodies as well. When our bodies participate in our prayer we pray with our whole person, as the unity of body and soul God created us to be.
During the Mass we assume different postures: standing kneeling, sitting, and we are also invited to make a variety of gestures. These postures and gestures are not merely ceremonial; they are the ways in which we engage our bodies in the prayer. Postures and gestures in Mass and prayer have deep meaning and, when done with understanding, they help us to be more focused on our prayer and more receptive to God's grace and love.
Because of this, the profound importance of a simple genuflection can be understood. A genuflection is the action begun from a standing postion in which a worshiper drops the right knee briefly to the floor, and then stands upright again. Most people naturally bow their head while performing this action; some make the sign of the cross. Some hold onto a nearby pew for physical support. A genuflection is not merely some ancient ritualistic movement; its purpose is to allow the worhiper to engage his whole person in acknowledging the presence of and to honor Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Here at St. Rose the tabernacle containing our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is found in the center at the back part of the sanctuary. We are all asked in the liturgical norms of the Church to make a genuflection toward the tabernacle before entering and after leaving our seat as a way of affirming and strengthening their faith in the presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. It is also a fitting way to show honor, love and devotion to our Lord. One should note that according to the Church's liturgical guidelines a bow is only to be used if we are carrying an object and is not a replacement for a genuflection
Although genuflection towards the Lord in the tabernacle unfortunately doesn't seem to be stressed or encouraged as much as in the past, it is still normative and explicitly part of who we are as Catholics. And when understood properly, it is also a vital gesture that shows the Lord we believe He is present and gives Him the honor due Him as our Savior. May we take every opportunity to show the Lord we believe in His presence by reverently genuflecting as we enter and leave the Church and whenever we cross in front of the tabernacle. It would certainly be appropriate at the same time, to say a word or two of prayer to the Lord as we acknowledge in body and soul our faith in His abiding presence in the Most Holy Eucharist.
God bless you,
Father Joseph Byerley