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  #16  
Old Aug 20, '10, 8:26 pm
MarkThompson MarkThompson is offline
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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Originally Posted by Monty61 View Post
This is faulty reasoning because it assumes that the two are mutually exclusive. They are not. I (and any properly catechised Catholic) am perfectly capable of being in awe and reverence for the for the physical presence of Jesus in the tabernacle, and simultaneously listen to his word proclaimed from the pulpit. Just as anyone is perfectly capable of listening to your voice as you speak to me while simultaneously seeing your face phyisically.
Sorry, most people are not capable of giving complete reverence to the Blessed Sacrament while simultaneously digesting and praying on a Biblical reading. This is why they do not throw Bible studies or give pious lectures during Adoration, and why you would complain if they tried to.

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The other cases you mention are special and do not apply to normal Masses. Men on the battlefield obviously realize the priest does not carry a tabernacle around in a backpack with consecrated hosts in it for fear it would be damaged or taken into the wrong hands.
Actually, it may be normal in a rural chapel, a military chapel, a college chapel, or the like. The point is that focusing too much on the tabernacle when you do have it at Mass may make you think the Mass is missing something when you don't have it. The Mass is 100% complete without a tabernacle.

It's like when the decision was made several centuries ago to cease distributing the Chalice at Mass in order to reinforce the fact that one does not need to receive the Precious Blood to have a complete Communion. Something that most people like and has good symbolic value -- being permitted to receive under both species -- was suppressed to correct people's mistaken thinking that it was necessary. Likewise, in not a few cases the thinking behind moving the tabernacle was that people had falsely come to see it as necessary and even central to the Mass, and they required an adjustment.

Personally, I like have the tabernacle front-and-center. I also like receiving under both species, though. Sometimes when your parents say "no" it's for your own growth and good, though, even if you don't understand it at the time.
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  #17  
Old Aug 20, '10, 8:33 pm
Aramis Aramis is offline
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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I think the confusion about this is a by product of the changes brought about in the implementation after Vatican II. Before that, the altar, tabernacle, and the crucifix were all three in the same place. So when you bowed or genuflected, you were reverencing all of them at the same time.
Only "usually"... not always. Some Cathedrals had the tabernacle elsewhere. Some not even in the sanctuary end of the building...
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  #18  
Old Aug 20, '10, 8:37 pm
Flatty10 Flatty10 is offline
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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It's the reverence for the place where the sacrifice is re-presented.
Yeah but like would we bow to the hill of calvary if we were present at that time?

Also should we bow at an empty tabernacle then, as it is the place where the body is housed?
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  #19  
Old Aug 20, '10, 9:07 pm
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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No, during Mass you genuflect if you pass in front of the tabernacle (except during the Communion procession). If you cross the altar you bow. I don't have to pass in front of either the altar or the Tabernacle when I go read so I was trained to simply go to the ambo.
What about bowing to the altar outside of Mass? Parishioners at one of the churches I attend bow to the altar before and after Mass (like when entering or exiting a pew), but some only do that and don't genuflect toward the Blessed Sacrament (which is clear on the other side of the church). I have only genuflected toward the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.
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  #20  
Old Aug 20, '10, 11:45 pm
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JReducation JReducation is offline
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

I realize that I'm joining a conversation in progress, so excuse me if I repeat what may have been said. It is important to understand where the bowing, genuflecting, tabernacle and altar all came from.

Until the 1200s tabernacles were not on the main altar. The tabernacle on the main altar was an innovation introduced to Roman Catholicism by St. Francis of Assisi. Though it is beleived that others had already started this on a smaller scale. When our Holy Father built our first chapels, they were very small in comparison to the large monastic churches and cathedrals of the time. There was no other place to put the tabernacle but on the main altar.

Let's understand that Francis wanted the tabernacle present, because of his great devotion to the Eucharist. But even he was very accustomed to the governing Benedictine tradition of the time. What was that?

The tabernacle was in a chapel where the monks prayed. The mass was celebrated in the abbey Church. They were literally two separate spaces. The practice was carried outside of the monasteries to the cathedral parishes. The monks had the custom of bowing before the altar at the beginning, during and at the end of the mass. That's where bowing before the altar came from. They did not bow to the altar outside of mass times, probably because they were not in the abbey church, except for mass.

Where did the genuflection come from? The ancient custom was to kiss the floor when entering the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Most lay people rarely saw this, because the Blessed Sacrament was not in the main church.

When the Franciscans took the monastic traditions outside of the enclosure things began to develop rather quickly. Like the monks before them, the friars kissed the floor when they entered the chapel, because the tabernacle was on the main altar. The chapel was the place where they prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and where they celebrated mass. They did not have two spaces as the monks had.

It was a very common custom of the time to kneel before the lord (king, duke, count, etc). While the friars went down and kissed the floor, the laity tried to follow suit with the reverence that they knew. They genuflected, as they had done for the lords of their day and ancient days before that.

As we see, the two customs of bowing to the altar and prostrating before the Blessed Sacrament become blended when the tabernacle and the altar of sacrifice are united in the same space.

The Franciscans and Dominicans grew, almost explosively. Soon both orders had friars and friaries all over Europe. Both professed very austere poverty. Both had very small places of worship, unlike the Benedictine and later the Cistercians who had large monastic complexes.

As the Franciscans and Dominicans replaced the Benedictines and the Cistercians pulled the Benedictine tradition back into the enclosure, the laity became more Franciscan and Dominican by default. Eventually, what had been practices that were particular to those two orders, Franciscans and Dominicans, became common practices in the Church. As new religious communities were founded, they did what the early Franciscans had done. The Franciscans took from the Benedictine abbey and the other communities took from the Franciscans and Dominicans. Eventually, all of those apostolic communities that were opening churches and parishes around Europe carried with them the custom of a tabernacle on the main altar. It ceased to be a mendicant custom and became common to a larger pool of people, thanks to the missionary work of all these active religious communities that followed.

Once you had the tabernacle fairly well established on the main altar, the custom of bowing to the altar at the beginning, middle and end of mass, was lost. It was replaced by what we still call the "venia" today. To us, friars, it is kissing the floor. To the laity it was going doing on the knee, at least.
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  #21  
Old Aug 20, '10, 11:45 pm
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

When the tabernacle was moved from the main altar, after Vatican II, there was a recovery of the "old" monastic custom of bowing before the altar. I place old in quotation marks, because it was never totally lost. It was still done in Benedictine abbeys and in large cathedrals and shrines that did not have a tabernacle on the main altar. But those were few and far between , between the 13th century and the 20th. It was never totally gone.

However, just as kissing the floor and genuflecting was a practice that was rarely seen by the laity prior to the 13th century, bowing to the altar was rarely seen by the laity between the 13th and the 20th century.

The two customs have always existed. They were simply not as obvious to the man in the pew. At one time the man in the pew knew only the bowing. Later he knew ony the genuflection. Today, we have both, because there is diversity in our religious architecture. Some churches have the tabernacle front and center and some do not. Some have the tabernacle on the side, but visible and others have it in a side chapel, where it is less visible.

The rule is that the tabernacle should be in the main body of the church, either cetner or on the side, but very visible. The new ruling is a blend of the ancient Franciscan and Benedictine models, either front and center (Franciscan) or on the side (quasi-Benedictine). Side chapels are allowed, but not preferred.

What never changed was the rule as to when to bow and when to genuflect. Those rules remain in place. In some places, they have become a little blurred. What I mean is that bowing before the tabernacle has become more common. But this was originally for the altar, not the tabernacle. And some people have begun to genuflect before the altar. This was for the tabernacle, not the altar. Obviously, when the tabernacle is front and center, you just genuflect. It is not a sin to bow instead of genuflecting. However, that's not the Roman custom.

It's very important not to confuse custom with morals. The custom is to genuflect or to kiss the floor. But it is not a moral law. If a person bows, it is not a sin, just as it is not a sin if a person genuflects before an altar where there is no Blessed Sacrament.

The most important part is that there must always be an act of reverence for the Eucharist in the tabernacle, as was modeled by St. Francis and for the altar of sacrifice, as part of liturgy, as was introduced by the St. Benedict. The tabernacle requires no explanation and the altar is the Calvary.

Finally, there is another ancient monastic custom practiced by monks and friars that has been introduced to the laity since Vatican II. This is the Table of the Word. In the mendicant and monastic orders, the LOTH is very prominent. However, the Liturgy of the Word has always been very elaborate as well. The two are interconnected. The lectern, podium, pulpit, amboe, whatever we call it this week, is the table where God feeds us with his Word in preparation for the Eucharistic Sacrifice and meal. Just as the Litugy of the Word and LOTH are linked, so are the Eucharistic Sacrifice and Eucharistic meal. I like to think of them as the four points on the compass. They all go together. You can't pull them part any more than you can pull apart a compass and still call it a compass. The proper reverence and solemnity must be given to the four points.

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  #22  
Old Aug 21, '10, 12:55 pm
ConvertaKat ConvertaKat is offline
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

Thank you, BR JR, that was very informative!
I had no idea and often wondered why, at some churches where the Lord and his tabernacle are hidden in the back behind closed doors or screens why people still did the knee bend to the empty altar.

Nice web links too!
Thanks!
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  #23  
Old Aug 22, '10, 7:15 pm
Monty61 Monty61 is offline
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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Originally Posted by MarkThompson View Post
Sorry, most people are not capable of giving complete reverence to the Blessed Sacrament while simultaneously digesting and praying on a Biblical reading. This is why they do not throw Bible studies or give pious lectures during Adoration, and why you would complain if they tried to.

)
The idea of doing either of these things never occurred to me, nor anyone else, I suspect. "Most people" probably have more ability than you are giving them/us credit for.

Normally it's not an issue. You go to your pew, genuflect because you cross in front of the tabernacle, pray for a while, then Mass begins. You pay attention to the Mass, the readings, receive Communion, go back to your pew (normally without genuflecting because you come in the side where you don't cross in front of the tabernacle), kneel down, give thanks that the Lord has given you his body to receive. The Mass ends, then you leave, genuflecting as you leave and cross in front of the tabernacle again.

The Mass is no less valid if there is no tabernacle there with reserved consecrated hosts. Few people, even the most traditionalist, believe that it is. And we know that there are special situations, such as you mention where there will not be a tabernacle.

The objection is that the traditional placement has been changed, and the traditional shape of the Churches have been changed. And because the traditional placement is gone, and the consistency of the placement of the tabernacle is gone, everyone is now confused, which was the point of the OP. She is confused, and I can't blame her. Modern churches that you enter if you are visiting from out of town, (which I do a lot in my line of work) do not provide you with a map to show where the tabernacle is or if they even have one. In a church with a tradional altar, there's no question.

Further, most traditionalists believe, (as I do) that all of the confusing changes have been for nothing and have not advanced Catholicism or Catholic worship, but have watered it down.

The altar is not Calvary unless Mass is in progress. I personally will not bow to an empty table style altar with no tabernacle on it and no relic contained in it. To re use your battlefield analogy, would you bow to the hood of a Jeep or a C-ration crate every time you saw that Jeep or crate if it had been used once to celebrate Mass?
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  #24  
Old Aug 22, '10, 7:30 pm
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JReducation JReducation is offline
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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Originally Posted by Monty61 View Post
The idea of doing either of these things never occurred to me, nor anyone else, I suspect. "Most people" probably have more ability than you are giving them/us credit for.

Normally it's not an issue. You go to your pew, genuflect because you cross in front of the tabernacle, pray for a while, then Mass begins. You pay attention to the Mass, the readings, receive Communion, go back to your pew (normally without genuflecting because you come in the side where you don't cross in front of the tabernacle), kneel down, give thanks that the Lord has given you his body to receive. The Mass ends, then you leave, genuflecting as you leave and cross in front of the tabernacle again.

The Mass is no less valid if there is no tabernacle there with reserved consecrated hosts. Few people, even the most traditionalist, believe that it is. And we know that there are special situations, such as you mention where there will not be a tabernacle.

The objection is that the traditional placement has been changed, and the traditional shape of the Churches have been changed. And because the traditional placement is gone, and the consistency of the placement of the tabernacle is gone, everyone is now confused, which was the point of the OP. She is confused, and I can't blame her. Modern churches that you enter if you are visiting from out of town, (which I do a lot in my line of work) do not provide you with a map to show where the tabernacle is or if they even have one. In a church with a tradional altar, there's no question.

Further, most traditionalists believe, (as I do) that all of the confusing changes have been for nothing and have not advanced Catholicism or Catholic worship, but have watered it down.

The altar is not Calvary unless Mass is in progress. I personally will not bow to an empty table style altar with no tabernacle on it and no relic contained in it. To re use your battlefield analogy, would you bow to the hood of a Jeep or a C-ration crate every time you saw that Jeep or crate if it had been used once to celebrate Mass?
Slow down here. I hear your passion. But I also know that not everyone is confused. First of all, the younger generation knows to look for the Blessed Sacrament chapel, because it has grown up with that. Second, most churches are not open during the day, only the Blessed Sacrament chapel is and it is usually approached through its own entrance, though most are in the same building as the parish church. And finally, we have to remember that the rule does not say that the Blessed Sacrament be hidden. It says that it should be quite prominent, in the central wall of the santuary or off to the side, but not hidden. If it is in a chapel, the indication should be noticeable. If you go to a parish and this is not the case, then you have a legitimate concern to bring to the pastor.

However, the rule does not say that the tabernacle has to be on the main altar. In fact, the tabernacle should have its own altar. The next time that you tune in to mass on EWTN or to Benediction observe their setup. It was done in conformity to the current rules. You will notice that the Blessed Sacrament is in the center, but on its own altar, not on the altar of sacrifice. The altar of sacrifice is very prominently placed in front, but does not block the view of the tabernacle. The only time that your vision of the tabernacle is impaired is when mass is being celebrated, but that is also the case within the Tridentine mass. In both forms the priest is standing in front of it. It is allowed, because the attention is on the altar.

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  #25  
Old Aug 22, '10, 7:37 pm
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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Slow down here. I hear your passion. But I also know that not everyone is confused. First of all, the younger generation knows to look for the Blessed Sacrament chapel, because it has grown up with that. Second, most churches are not open during the day, only the Blessed Sacrament chapel is and it is usually approached through its own entrance, though most are in the same building as the parish church. And finally, we have to remember that the rule does not say that the Blessed Sacrament be hidden. It says that it should be quite prominent, in the central wall of the santuary or off to the side, but not hidden. If it is in a chapel, the indication should be noticeable. If you go to a parish and this is not the case, then you have a legitimate concern to bring to the pastor.

However, the rule does not say that the tabernacle has to be on the main altar. In fact, the tabernacle should have its own altar. The next time that you tune in to mass on EWTN or to Benediction observe their setup. It was done in conformity to the current rules. You will notice that the Blessed Sacrament is in the center, but on its own altar, not on the altar of sacrifice. The altar of sacrifice is very prominently placed in front, but does not block the view of the tabernacle. The only time that your vision of the tabernacle is impaired is when mass is being celebrated, but that is also the case within the Tridentine mass. In both forms the priest is standing in front of it. It is allowed, because the attention is on the altar.

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Thanks for posting that, Brother. One question: is it in fact correct to say that "the tabernacle should have its own altar"? The GIRM states, "303. In building new churches, it is preferable to erect a single altar which in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church." It also clarifies, "315. It is more in keeping with the meaning of the sign that the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved not be on an altar on which Mass is celebrated." Am I missing some other instruction which would indicate that the tabernacle should have an altar?
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  #26  
Old Aug 22, '10, 10:05 pm
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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The altar is not Calvary unless Mass is in progress. I personally will not bow to an empty table style altar with no tabernacle on it and no relic contained in it. To re use your battlefield analogy, would you bow to the hood of a Jeep or a C-ration crate every time you saw that Jeep or crate if it had been used once to celebrate Mass?
We bow to the altar because a consecrated altar (and an altar may be validly consecrated without relics - it was so even before Vatican II except you needed a faculty) because it is consecrated for its function as the place where the sacrifice takes place. The hood of the jeep is temporary, out of necessity and not consecrated especially for that purpose. And according to the teaching of the Fathers, the altar in the Church represents Christ. It is as the Traditional rite itself says "Altare quidem sanctae Ecclesiae ipse est Christus...."
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  #27  
Old Aug 22, '10, 10:29 pm
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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Thanks for posting that, Brother. One question: is it in fact correct to say that "the tabernacle should have its own altar"? The GIRM states, "303. In building new churches, it is preferable to erect a single altar which in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church." It also clarifies, "315. It is more in keeping with the meaning of the sign that the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved not be on an altar on which Mass is celebrated." Am I missing some other instruction which would indicate that the tabernacle should have an altar?
The GIRM use of Altar implies the term specifically means the altar of sacrifice; under the current praxis in the Roman Church, the altar of repose is not used as an altar of sacrifice, and is consecrated differently.
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  #28  
Old Aug 22, '10, 11:20 pm
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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Thanks for posting that, Brother. One question: is it in fact correct to say that "the tabernacle should have its own altar"? The GIRM states, "303. In building new churches, it is preferable to erect a single altar which in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church." It also clarifies, "315. It is more in keeping with the meaning of the sign that the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved not be on an altar on which Mass is celebrated." Am I missing some other instruction which would indicate that the tabernacle should have an altar?
Notice the part that I have bolded. Here is where we get into our bad habits. I called it an altar. The fact is that it is not really such, because it is not where the sacrifice takes place. It's really a table or pedestal or even in the wall. Like the rest of humanity, I often feel uncomfortable saying that the tabernacle is on a table behind the altar. Until we come up with a better word for the place where the tabernacle is set, many of us will probably mistakenly refer to it as an "altar".

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Old Aug 23, '10, 10:44 am
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

I'm a new Catholic since Easter 2009 and I want to say Thanks for teaching me something I didn't know before. I was under the impression that when one genuflects before entering the pew before Mass that we are genuflecting before the Body of Christ on the Crucifix hanging on the wall behind the Altar or suspended just above the Altar or slightly behind as I've seen in a few Churches. I've leaned alot by watching others and most seemed to direct their gaze upward toward the Crucifix - maybe I should pay better attention next time??
I had no idea that we were bowing and genuflecting to the Body of Christ in the Tabernacle and/or the Altar of Sacrifice.
I'm glad to know what is the proper object to direct reverence to - Thanks
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Old Aug 23, '10, 12:26 pm
ProVobis ProVobis is offline
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Default Re: Bowing to Altar or Tabernacle?

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Thank you, BR JR, that was very informative!
I had no idea and often wondered why, at some churches where the Lord and his tabernacle are hidden in the back behind closed doors or screens why people still did the knee bend to the empty altar.

Nice web links too!
Thanks!
I was never taught to bow or genuflect to the altar. To the crucifix or Tabernacle, yes. And if the Blessed Sacrament exposed is exposed, genuflect on two knees. But maybe I was taught wrong.
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