The tabernacle in the center of the Church. Since moving the tabernacle to accommodate the Giving Tree gifts, I have been receiving a very large number of compliments and requests to make this change permanent. Personally, I have found that it has resulted in three benefits. First, it makes celebrating Mass (especially on Monday night) much smoother for me as celebrant. Secondly, I believe (and others have agreed with me on this, but I am sure there are opposing views) that the tabernacle and tabernacle lamp add depth, context, and color to our wall which actually helps to highlight our sculpture, adding to its beauty. Finally, I have been so pleased that upon entering the front doors of the church you immediately see the altar and the tabernacle−the centrality of our faith as well as its source and summit−greet all who walk into our church. What a special gift and what a special welcome! With this in mind, I am going to leave the tabernacle where it is.
Therefore, I do want to remind everyone of some basic information which becomes more relevant to our liturgies with the new placement of the tabernacle.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal teaches us that those in procession at the start of the Mass genuflect to the tabernacle when it is in the sanctuary, at the beginning and end of Mass. Ministers carrying items in the processional (i.e. the cross, candles, book of the Gospel) bow their heads instead of genuflecting. However, all ministers, including cantors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, bow to the altar during the course of the Mass. Ministers bow toward the altar when passing in front of it once Mass has begun because the Mass is the unfolding mystery of Christ – – first His word in the scripture, then His sacrifice on the altar, His communion with us, and finally His abiding presence. Remember, we see the altar as representing Christ, the Living Stone (cf. 1 Peter 2:4). Because of this association, a bow of the body is prescribed as the normal gesture made toward the altar, as if toward Christ Himself. Outside of Mass, however, the normal tradition applies. We genuflect whenever we cross before the Lord reposed in a tabernacle (remember a genuflection to God is made by bending the right knee).