Question about the Tabernacle


Sometimes, the door is open…does that mean the Host is inside?

Is Eucharistic Adoration only when the Host is contained in the monstrance?

And when exactly is it called Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?

Lastly, I’ve read in a couple places where Christ is called Prisoner of the Tabernacle…Is that a correct term? It seems odd to call Christ a prisoner…


The door is open when there is no Eucharist inside it.

Exposed Eucharistic Adoration should only occur when the Host is contained in a monstrance. However, the faithful can adore the Eucharist enclosed in the tabernacle.

Exposition is simply “exposing the Blessed Sacrament.” Exposing it so we can adore it.

I have heard that term before, and it is often misunderstood. Jesus willfully makes himself a Prisoner of Love, willingly imprisoning himself in a tabernacle just for us. So it’s not like he is there as punishment, but as a sign of love for us.


Usually, the doors being left open indicates the tabernacle is empty. If there are consecrated hosts it should be closed and locked to prevent desecration.

Is Eucharistic Adoration only when the Host is contained in the monstrance?

No. Jesus can be adored anytime, even hidden away in the tabernacle. I’ve shared this before but I remember seeing a man leaning with his hand on the outside wall of the church. I realized that he was where the tabernacle was located in the Blessed Sacrement chapel. The church was locked and that wall was as close as he could get to Jesus at that time.

And when exactly is it called Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?

You described it above - the Host is exposed in the monstrance.

Lastly, I’ve read in a couple places where Christ is called Prisoner of the Tabernacle…Is that a correct term? It seems odd to call Christ a prisoner…

I think of that as purple prose but it really is true. He waits for us to visit him.


Ah, thank you. You prevented me from praying to an empty Tabernacle.

While I’m at it, what happens to the consecrated Bread and Wine that are not distributed to the parishioners (“left over”)? Is it saved for the next Mass or distributed to the sick or homebound?

OK, last question I promise…I’ve never actually seen the Host in close proximity…is the Bread one receives broken from a larger piece, or is it an already round smaller communion Bread that is consecrated at the same time as the Bread that gets broken by the priest?

  1. Both
  2. Either. It depends on how close to the front you are. My priest uses those whole wheat celebrant Hosts that are 5 inches in diameter, so he breaks it up into smaller pieces, and puts it in with the small white Hosts. If you attend a Traditional Latin Mass, this isn’t allowed, so you will only receive small white or whole wheat Hosts.

Feel free to ask as many questions as you want. We love to educate people about the Faith. :slight_smile:

P.S., just in case you didn’t know, if the tabernacle is empty, do not genuflect towards it. Just simply make a profound bow to the altar.


I welcome correction on this but I don’t think exposition requires a monstrance. It is most commonly done that way but my understanding is that a ciborium can simply be placed on the altar with no lid or that a consecrated host can be placed on a paten for exposition.

This is the monstrance in the perpetual adoration chapel at my parish.



I certainly did not know this…oops. I’ve been genuflecting every time…

It seems that at 8:15 am daily Mass, the Host and monstrance are present on the altar (followed by the Divine Praises), but not at 6:45 am or 12:10 pm Mass…is there a reason for this?


If the Blessed Sacrament is exposed when you enter, you should go to both knees (instead of genuflect).


Wow. That’s a beautiful monstrance.


To answer your questions, OP:

  1. Indeed, the tabernacle is open when the Sacred Host is not present. You should also be able to determine this by looking for the Sanctuary Light - it will always be in a red candleholder, and is normally somewhere close to the tabernacle. If the light is on, Jesus is present in the tabernacle. (It is always kept on, even when there is no one in the church; consequently, I think many churches today are opting for electric Sanctuary Lights, for safety.)

  2. Indeed, you can adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament when He is hidden in the tabernacle. When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the monstrance, He is even more present. One must perform a double genuflection (going down on both knees) when entering or leaving the pew. (Of note: do NOT genuflect, even on one knee, if you are carrying something due to the risk of falling. If it is possible, you should attempt to put your object down and genuflect properly, but if this would be disruptive or not possible (e.g. you’re carrying/wearing a baby or small child) a head bow while standing still is appropriate.) When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, He must NEVER be left alone; there must always be someone present to watch with Him. Some parishes will have a Holy Hour of Adoration once a month, or sometimes even once a week. If the parish is fortunate enough to have people to volunteer regularly, they may have Adoration available for several hours. In some religious communities (and in some chapels designated for the purpose), Perpetual Adoration is celebrated, which means the Blessed Sacrament is always kept in the monstrance. (The exposed Blessed Sacrament will be covered during Mass; I visited such a community and they had it in a special cupboard, to which they closed the doors during Mass.)

  3. We say that Jesus is a prisoner of love in the tabernacle because He is not able to leave the tabernacle, except to be removed for Mass (or to be placed elsewhere, such as if there is a meeting in the church or during Easter Triduum, when He is at the Altar of Repose).

  4. In regards to unconsumed Sacred Blood or Sacred Hosts: unconsumed Sacred Hosts are normally placed in the ciborium, the large gold cup that is placed in the tabernacle. Unconsumed Sacred Blood may be consumed by the priest/deacon or Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion after the faithful have received Holy Communion. If there is a large amount of Sacred Blood left, it may be poured down the sacrarium after Mass. You may have noticed that there is a special room that Father comes out of before Mass, and departs into after Mass, to change into his vestments? This is called the sacristy, and is normally used to keep items such as sacred vessels, extra wine, extra altar breads, priests’, deacons, and altar servers’ vestments, etc. It also contains a special sink called the sacrarium, which drains directly into the ground. The sacrarium is used to cleanse sacred vessels after Mass and also to dispose of any extra Sacred Blood and extra holy water, such as that which was used if there was a Baptism. (Usually the sacrarium will have a cover on it to distinguish it from an ordinary sink.) This is done because it is more respectful than pouring the Blessed Sacrament and sacramentals into the sewage system. Sometimes this may be the job of a sacristan, a church employee whose job it is to care for sacred vessels and order Mass supplies. In smaller parishes, it may be the job of the priest, deacon, or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.


Hmm…I’ve never observed anyone genuflecting with both knees…I’ve seen bows, genuflecting with one knee followed by sign of the Cross, and half-genuflections. Is that basically just kneeling before entering the pews?


Yes. Genuflection on both knees is usually only required if the Blessed Sacrament is in the monstrance. When He is in the tabernacle, genuflection on one knee is sufficient :slight_smile:


The requirement to go down on two knees was removed in the 1970s.

Think about it - Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament. His presence cannot be limited by whether He is behind a sheet of metal or of glass. In other words, He is equally present in the Tabernacle or in the monstrance on the altar.

The Church therefore decided that the same sign of reverence for both situations was logical . So the choice was either say we must go down on both knees for both, or just on one i.e .genuflect. and they chose the latter.

I am not saying the going down on both knees is wrong. And it must be a powerful witness to any non-Catholic who wanders into a catholic church while there is Exposition.

But we mustn’t impose customs from our childhood on to new members, in the mistaken belief that they are what the Church teaches.


Actually, as of 1972, double genuflection is no longer required in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. But, it is still a pious custom in the United States. One may either do a single or double genuflection.


Yes, it is.


A monstrance should not be present on the altar during Mass. Masses in the presence of the Exposed Blessed Sacrament are no longer allowed.


Going down on both knees is a genuflection. It is called “double genuflection.”


I’ve only seen the ‘both knees’ genuflection in a parish downtown; I don’t see it at the Adoration Chapel very often, even though the Blessed Body of Christ is exposed. I did some research on this, and it’s not required.

At most parishes I’ve attended, the Blood of Christ is drank by the priest or the EMHC.


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