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Question:

There is a difference of opinion as to the attitude in which people are to adore the Blessed Sacrament at the time of the Elevation at Mass. Some maintain that it is wrong to bow down and bury one's face in the hands ; they hold that the Sacred Host is elevated for the purpose of being seen by the faithful, and that the proper attitude is therefore to look up at the Blessed Sacrament. Others — and this seems to be the general opinion — believe that the posture of adoration implies a bending down of the head and body. Do the rubrics indicate any one way that is preferable to another?

Answer:

The difference of opinion as to whether the faithful should look up or bend down in attesting their worship of the Blessed Sacrament, arises no doubt from an undue stress laid upon one or other of the two acts which the liturgy indicates as the becoming expression of our reverence before the exposed Sacramental Presence. As a matter of fact the action of the priest in elevating the Sacred Host indicates that the faithful should first see, and then bow down in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. 

But as the principal act of the moment is one of adoration, the Elevation (apart from the symbolical thought which recalls the scene of Calvary and the promise of our Divine Lord that, when raised on the Cross, He would draw all things to Himself) is only intended to make the faithful aware of the great miracle of Transubstantiation that has just taken place.

Hence to lift up the face and gaze upon the Sacred Host, although it may be an act of adoration by reason of the intention of the one who thus adores, is not the primary act of worship, nor is it necessary at all, since the bell which the acolyte rings serves as a warning to the faithful of the Royal Advent upon the altar and suffices to call forth the prostration which has ever been the token of adoration. 

The celebrant himself, after having raised his eyes to the Cross, to indicate his consciousness of the Divine source whence he draws the power that now converts bread and wine into the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ, and furthermore in imitation of our Blessed Lord's manner at the Last Supper, looks of necessity upon the elements which he is to consecrate.

But the moment he has pronounced the words of Christ, he bends his knee and head before the adorable Presence. And the liturgy, so far as it expresses the sense of the faithful when they come to adore the Blessed Sacrament exposed or elevated upon the altar, indicates this same attitude in chanting the words of the " Tantum ergo . . . veneremur cernui," that is to say, " before so great a mystery we bend down in veneration."