In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: At the liturgy workshop yesterday, you said that we could take a cue from the Holy Thursday Mass at which we genuflect after placing the ciborium inside the tabernacle but before closing the door, and so while we would not genuflect when retrieving the reserve, we would genuflect after reposing it but before closing the tabernacle door.

Upon returning home, I looked up the Holy Thursday Mass, and I could not find that rubric.  Would you kindly point me to it at your convenience?  The closest I could find were nn. 37–40 in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Roman Missal).  Specifically, nn. 39, 40 state that at the place of repose “the Deacon or the Priest himself places the Sacrament in the tabernacle and closes the door,” then “After a period of adoration in silence, the Priest and ministers genuflect and return to the sacristy.”

In any case, the place of repose is outside the sanctuary, and so it seems to me that whatever it might say would not necessarily apply for a tabernacle that is in the sanctuary.  Thus, I would fall back to GIRM, 274, and the principle that you stated at the beginning of the workshop (paraphrase): “Do what it says; don’t do what it does not say”: and advocate that one does not genuflect to the tabernacle during Mass when either retrieving or reposing the reserve if the tabernacle is in the sanctuary.  (One would genuflect, however, if the tabernacle were located outside the sanctuary.)

Thank you, and God’s graces to you.

With great esteem for you and your work in the liturgy,


A: Thanks for pointing this out. I was thinking of paragraph 39, which calls for the ministers to kneel and incense while the tabernacle door is open. You’re right that that’s not a genuflection, but it does indicate that reverence is given to the Sacrament, rather than the tabernacle, and one takes advantage of the open door to do it more clearly.

The missal doesn’t imagine that we’re using the tabernacle at all for Mass, though it does instruct priests either to consume or to repose the hosts that remain after communion (GIRM 163). Shy of any instruction about gestures at that point, you could certainly make an argument that no reverence is needed, and that all will genuflect to the tabernacle anyway at the end of the service or before leaving the church.