Hidalgo Cohen wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am learning to become a Sacristan.

  • Do I bow or genuflect in front of a closed tabernacle that is located behind an altar?
  • Does it matter if I have a candle lighter or another type of religious/sacred object in my hand(s)?

Thank you very much.


  { Does a Sacristan bow or knee in front of a closed tabernacle and what if I have things in my hands? }

John replied:


The proper gesture is to genuflect however one has to use common sense.

If genuflecting isn't possible for whatever reason, bow even if it's only your head.

If you're lighting candles, and you fear losing your balance or lighting something on fire, just bow your head.

The important thing is to show reverence.

Some will genuflect the first time they cross in front of the Tabernacle and bow subsequent times. Again use your own judgment. If you're carrying something you might spill if you genuflect, then bow and, if need be, only your head.

These gestures are an expression of the reverence we have for Our Lord in our heart. The Lord knows that. So a reverent and dignified bow will suffice if genuflecting isn't practical.


Eric replied:


If I am not mistaken, you do not genuflect when you are holding something, as a crucifer or lucifer (candle-bearer).

In any case, I recommend you consult your priest on the details of what he wants to be done since he is the one you have to answer to.


A friend, Anonymous Andrew replied:

Dear Hidalgo,

I found instructions about genuflections and bows in two official books:

I don't think the Ceremonial of Bishops is available on-line in English. It is a relevantly large document to convert and translate from Latin to English but here is a rough Latin translation to the English of the sections I have referenced:

II. Signs Of Reverence In General

68. With the bow you want to mean the reverence and honor to be paid to
people themselves or their images.

There are two kinds of bow: of the head and of the body.

  1. the bow of the head is made to the name of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints in whose honor the mass or liturgy of the Mass is celebrated hours;
  2. the bow of the body, or deep bow, is made: at the altar, if there is no tabernacle with the ss. Sacrament; to the bishop; before and after the incensation, as noted below under n. 91; whenever it is expressly prescribed by the various liturgical books.

69. The genuflection, which is done by bending the right knee only to the ground, it means adoration, and therefore it is reserved to the ss. Sacrament, be it exposed, or placed in the tabernacle, and to the holy cross from solemn adoration in liturgical action. Friday evening "in the Lord's Passion", until the beginning of the Easter vigil.

70. Neither kneeling nor deep bowing are carried out by those who carry objects that are used for the celebration, for example the cross, the candlesticks, the book of the Gospels.

The reverence towards the ss. Sacrament

71. All those who enter the church do not neglect to worship the ss. sacrament chin, both going to the chapel of the ss. Sacramento, be it at least genuflecting.

Likewise all those who pass before the Ss. Sacramento genufletto- no, unless they progress processionally.

The reverence towards the altar

72. All those who enter the presbytery or depart from it, or pass healthy before the altar, greet the altar with a deep bow.

73. Furthermore, the celebrant and the concelebrants, as a sign of veneration kiss the altar at the beginning of the mass. The main celebrant, before moving away from the altar, as a rule he venerates him with a kiss, the others instead, especially if they are rather numerous, with due reverence.

In the celebration of praise and vespers solemnly presided over by the vo, he kisses the altar at the beginning, and, according to the opportunity, at the end.

However, if this gesture did not correspond fully to the traditions of the culture of a particular region, it is up to the episcopal conference end a gesture that replaces the kiss, informing the apostolic seat.

They indicate that normally everyone makes a genuflection when passing in front of the Blessed Sacrament, whether it is exposed or not. But there are exceptions.

If the tabernacle is in the sanctuary then, at the celebration of Mass, the priest and servers genuflect when approaching the altar and when leaving it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.

Also, if you are carrying an object which is to be used in the celebration of Mass, such as a cross, candlestick, or Gospel book, you don't genuflect or make a deep bow, but only a bow of the head.

I suppose (and this is just my opinion) that you could adapt this to your task. If you are carrying a small flame to use in lighting the altar candles, you can put safety first, and limit yourself to a head bow. On the other hand, if you are carrying a small gas-lighter for candles, and it's not lighted yet, it would be safe to genuflect while holding it.

Wishing you all the best in your new role of service.


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