Prostration

From Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann:

Christian asceticism is a fight, not against but for the body. For this reason, the whole person–soul and body–repents. The body participates  in the prayer of the soul just as the soul prays through and in the body. Prostrations, the “psychosomatic” sign of repentance and humility, of adoration and obedience, are thus the lenten rite par excellence.

My problem is making room in my cluttered house for prostration. I had a favorite retreat center in the 90′s where I found great intercession and healing in praying, prostrated on the floor in the chapel.

The posture was a favorite when I was a boy for many things: reading, studying coins or other collectibles, writing or painting. In the spiritual realm, it’s not something one can easily do in public–most places just aren’t built for it. I can imagine side stalls half-hidden in a church to allow people to pray prostrate without inquiring eyes.

Success with this posture, anyone?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to Prostration

  1. I’ve always appreciated this form of worship. Is there any times where it would be more applicable?

    Also, what are the proper traditional positions? I know there are some positions being questioned as being too similar to Islam…

    Thanks for your awesome posts!

  2. Steve says:

    The parish where I took over (previous director of liturgy was there 21 years) … had the Elect prostrate during the Litany of Saints at the Easter Vigil.

    I could find no evidence of this being done anywhere historically, so the pastor removed it since it would confuse people with holy orders or those ordained being the only ones ever prostrating. Caused a big stink.

    Thoughts?

  3. Todd says:

    Easter Vigil is plenty rich without adding gestures like this. I could see prostration for the scrutiny, but I think reserving the gesture for ordinands is sufficient.

    But a 21-year-old custom–a pretty powerful gesture besides–is going to have a lot of attachment.

    If I came into a parish, I probably would hold my tongue on it till I was able to negotiate an alternative people might agree was better.

  4. Lars Bjarne Saltveit says:

    The prostration is Biblical. Matthew 17:6. The natural body language for Thomas in John 20:28 will be prostration. Dalrymple tells in his book “The Holy Mountain” about monks in the middle East praying like this. How to do it? http://vajra.us/gus_prostration_1.html.
    Lars

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