4. Manifestations of Adoration and Reverence
It is not superfluous for us to mention some of the ways in which adoration and reverence manifest themselves regarding the Eucharistic mystery. We human beings are body and soul. External gestures can manifest our faith, strengthen it and help to share it with other people.
The way in which we celebrate the Mass has great importance. This applies first of all to the Priest celebrant, but also to deacons, minor ministers, choirs, readers and every other participant, each in that person's own role. The way the Priest celebrates the Holy Eucharist affects the congregation in a very special manner. If he celebrates in such a way that his faith and devotion shine out, the people are nourished and strengthened in their Eucharistic faith, the weak in faith are awakened and everyone is sent home energized to live and share the faith. Such a priest has knack or skill of celebration with dignity, faith and devotion for the Eucharist of which the October 2005 Synod of Bishops emphasised the importance (Synod Proposition, 25).
We manifest our adoration of our Eucharistic Jesus by genuflection whenever we cross the area of the tabernacle where He is reserved. It is reasonable where He is reserved. It is reasonable for us to bend the knee before Him because He is our God. This is a way in which adoration is shown to the Holy Eucharist in the Latin Rite Church. The Oriental Churches and Benedictine Monasteries have the tradition of a deep bow. The meaning is the same. Moreover, our genuflection should be a reverential and deliberate act and not a careless bending of the knee to the nearest pillar characteristic of some people in whom over-familiarity with the tabernacle seems to breed hurried and nonchalant movements. As is well known, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has written beautifully on the sense of the act of genuflection. (cf. J. Ratzinger: The Spirit of the Liturgy, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2000, p. 184-194). As for those who may ignore the significance of this gesture, it may be well to remember that we are not pure spirits like the angels.
A Protestant once was visiting a Catholic church in the company of a Catholic friend. They passed across the tabernacle area. The Protestant asked the Catholic what that box was and why a little lamp was burning near it. The Catholic explained that Jesus the Lord is present there. The Protestant then put the vital question: "If you believe that your Lord and God is here present, then why don't you genuflect, even prostrate and crawl?" The superficial Catholic got the message. He genuflected. Everyone can thus see why the tabernacle of the Most Blessed Sacrament is located in a central or at least prominent place in our churches. It is the centre of our attention and prayer.
The October 2005 Synod of Bishops emphasised this point (cf Prop., 6, 28, 34). In some of our churches some misguided person has relegated the tabernacle to an obscure section of the church. Sometimes it is even so difficult for a visitor to locate where the tabernacle is, that the visitor can say with truth with St Mary Magdalene: "They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they laid him" (Jn 20:13).
We also show our adoration and reverence towards the Holy Eucharist by silence in church, by becoming dress and postures at sacred celebrations, by joining other people in singing, giving responses, and gestures such as sitting, kneeling or standing, and by general care over whatever has to do with Eucharistic worship such as reading, discipline in church and tidiness in altar and sacristy equipment.
May I say a further word on the importance of silence in our churches and chapels. Movements of silence help us to prepare for the celebration of Mass. During Mass, a few minutes of silence help us to meditate on the lessons, the Gospel and the homily just heard. Silence after receiving Jesus. Holy Communion is a time for personal prayer to Our Lord. At the end of Mass and at all other times in church, silence is a mark of reverence for God's house and especially for Jesus present in the tabernacle.
Some church rectors have the habit of playing recorded soft music as a background in churches almost the whole day outside Mass. This is doubtless well-intentioned. But it is a mistake. People enter churches to pray, not to be entertained. They are not tourists in a museum or music hall. They need silence in order to concentrate on the tabernacle, or even to reflect on the statues, sacred images which are ongoing catechesis, and the figures of the Way of the Cross.
Gradually in the Church of the Latin Rite from the Middle Ages, Eucharistic devotion has developed in such forms as visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament, personal and group Holy Hour of Adoration, and Eucharistic Benediction, Procession and Congress. None of us should behave as if he or she had outgrown such manifestations of faith and had no need of them. I mention in particular Eucharistic adoration as encouraged by Pope John Paul II (cf Mane Nobiscum Domine, 18) and by the Synod of Bishops of October 2005 (cf Prop., 6).
Some parish priests have been surprised by their parishioners signing up for adoration at all hours of day or night. I was told about a Congregation of Sisters in Mexico which has kept up perpetual adoration for 130 years, including the years of persecution. Genuine Eucharistic faith never fails to manifest itself.