Genuflections and Ciboria

And More on Languages

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ROME, SEPT. 25, 2012 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: At my parish we still go to the tabernacle during the «Lamb of God» for hosts to supplement those already consecrated. Sometimes three or four full ciboria are brought to the altar so that the newly consecrated hosts can be added to those from the tabernacle. After the deacon places these ciboria on the altar, he genuflects, but not the priest. The priest waits until after the «Lamb of God …» is chanted. Aside from the intention of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal to not use hosts from the tabernacle, is the deacon correct in genuflecting at this time? (He also genuflects, of course, when opening or closing the tabernacle doors.) — R.V., Chicago

A: First of all, our reader is correct in saying that insofar as possible the faithful should receive from hosts consecrated in the same Mass. The GIRM, No. 85, says:

«It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord’s Body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the instances when it is permitted, they partake of the chalice (cf. below, no. 283), so that even by means of the signs Communion will stand out more clearly as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated.»

Of course, it is necessary to renew the hosts in the tabernacle and so on at least some occasions these must be used in the distribution of Communion.

There are also numerous situations when it is difficult to calculate the number of hosts required, and having a sufficient reserve is a pastoral necessity.

However, it would not be a correct response to this desire of the Church for the majority of hosts to be habitually taken from the tabernacle.

With respect to the precise question at hand I would say the following: The usual custom is to genuflect before taking and after leaving the Blessed Sacrament in a specific place. This practice, however, would naturally be omitted in this case, since Christ is already really present upon the altar and under both species.

The priest’s genuflection after the «Lamb of God» is a ritual action of the Mass and is related to his taking Communion. It has nothing to do with the presence or absence of ciboria taken from the tabernacle.

I would also say that if the tabernacle is directly behind and close to the altar, then the deacon should not genuflect before taking the ciboria for communion as Christ is already present behind him. If the tabernacle is off to one side or in a separate chapel, then he should genuflect at this time.

He should always genuflect upon replacing the ciborium in the tabernacle after communion. He does this before closing the tabernacle door.

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Follow-up: Concelebrating in an Unfamiliar Language

In the wake of our Sept. 11 piece on the use of an unfamiliar language, a Michigan reader asked: «You expressed the importance of the use of Latin and that many young priests are making its use more common. I am a seminarian and I share the desire to be able to pray the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin. However, I have a severe roadblock in that I do not know what the proper pronunciation of ecclesiastical Latin is. Could you give some guidance as to what the Church regards as the proper pronunciation of ecclesiastical Latin?»

The quickest way is to learn Italian, since ecclesiastical Latin is (mostly) Latin pronounced as an Italian would say it.

A brief but very clear explanation of the pronunciation of Church Latin can be found at: and:

Latin, of course, was a widely used language and had different levels of usage and pronunciation. The length of time between Horace and St. Augustine is roughly equivalent to the time between Shakespeare and us — and with no printing presses and television to unify divergent uses.

Although nobody knows exactly how Julius Caesar would have sounded, scholars of classical Latin have more or less agreed upon common pronunciation rules for Cicero, Livy and Ovid. These rules differ from ecclesiastical Latin on many points.

Since Church Latin pronunciation is the reference point for the correct singing of Gregorian chant and compositions in sacred polyphony, most choir directors will follow Church rules.

Some Northern European practitioners, however, opt to pronounce and sing sacred Latin texts in a manner closer to the classical rules or even as if it were their own native tongue. The results can be quite jarring for those accustomed to traditional ecclesiastical Latin.

Some readers inquired if the rules regarding a common language for the Eucharistic Prayer also applied to the common parts to be recited by the whole assembly.

I would say that as a rule of thumb, yes, but not as strictly as for the Eucharistic Prayer.

On at least some special occasions it is possible for only the choir to sing some of these parts, such as the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. They may always be sung in Latin even when the Mass is in another language and occasionally, such as in multiethnic Masses, they may be sung or recited in different languages.

However, I would consider that the Our Father is a different category in which it is preferable that the entire assembly be able to unite around a single text, either the principal vernacular language or Latin.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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