Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sacred Signs by Romano Guardini: Kneeling

Please pray for me and for all participants in the retreat given by Opus Angelorum this weekend in Holly, Michigan. Pray also for the priests who lead us in this retreat that God grace them during this time of spiritual work.

Comments will be open, but I will have "moderation" turned on. Your comments will be visible after I return and have had a chance to ensure nothing lewd has popped into this blog.

I leave you with a continuation of our current series...


from "Sacred Signs" by Romano Guardini, c 1956
via the EWTN online Library

WHEN a man feels proud of himself, he stands erect, draws himself to his full height, throws back his head and shoulders and says with every part of his body, I am bigger and more important than you. But when he is humble he feels his littleness, and lowers his head and shrinks into himself. He abases himself. And the greater the presence in which he stands the more deeply he abases himself; the smaller he becomes in his own eyes.

But when does our littleness so come home to us as when we stand in God's presence? He is the great God, who is today and yesterday, whose years are hundreds and thousands, who fills the
place where we are, the city, the wide world, the measureless space of the starry sky, in whose eyes the universe is less than a particle of dust, all-holy, all-pure, all-righteous, infinitely high. He is so great, I so small, so small that beside him I seem hardly to exist, so wanting am I in worth and substance. One has no need to be told that God's presence is not the place in which to stand on one's dignity. To appear less presumptuous, to be as little and low as we feel, we sink to our knees and thus sacrifice half our height; and to satisfy our hearts still further we bow down our heads, and our diminished stature speaks to God and says, Thou art the great God; I am nothing.

Therefore let not the bending of our knees be a hurried gesture, an empty form. Put meaning into it. To kneel, in the soul's intention, is to bow down before God in deepest reverence.

On entering a church, or in passing before the altar, kneel down all the way without haste or hurry, putting your heart into what you do, and let your whole attitude say, Thou art the great God. It is an act of humility, an act of truth, and everytime you kneel it will do your soul good.

This is probably one of the greatest things we can ponder today: While the invisible God took on the visible form of Man, did Our Lord ever intend the casual, buddy-like, and lukewarm relationship so easy to fall into in these times?

When we enter the church building, we first look for the Tabernacle which houses Him. Once we enter through those doors, like heaven, we should give all of our focus to Him. No other thing or person should command our attention which should be give fully to the Lord when in His house.

Restore a sense of the sacred by just being silent, humble, still and on your knees before His Majesty. When others are talking in Church remain focused. Don't kneel to make a point. Do it out of love for Him without concern for what others are doing, not doing. Don't worry about what others may think as long as your reasons for kneeling are pure.

When the noise in Church is taking it's toll on you, don't be angry. Get on your knees and ask for God's forgiveness, for "they know not what they do". It's only by the grace of God that many of us "get it" and fall into silent prayer in Church. Recall the noise that must have been around our Lord on His way to crucifixion - the conversations, people going about their business, even jeering Him. He never lashed out at them, nor was He angry. Follow the example of Jesus and offer up these sufferings experienced in noisy parishes in reparation for these offenses, and for conversion of those who do not yet understand.

If you are a priest I can tell you that I was deeply impacted by seeing priests visibly in prayer. They weren't showing off or drawing attention to themselves. Rather, they were just praying and, in essence, served as a witness of the Lord in this capacity. Witnessing them in prayer gave me an indication of Whom I should be "visiting" when in Church.

I've often wondered if the noise in our parishes before Mass would cease if our priests came out 15 minutes prior to Mass and simply knelt in prayer without saying a word, especially if the Blessed Sacrament is central. It communicates something: This is God and we should be silent before Him. The Holy Spirit can work through a priest on his knees, especially if he offers this time for the intention of pre-Mass recollection of those in attendance. Here, a priest of Opus Angelorum was on his knees for one hour - a Holy Hour for vocations. This has been going on the first Sunday of every month at Assumption Grotto.

If you have difficulty kneeling for any length of time and do not have physical limitations, know that kneeling each day for as long as you can, eventually conditions you for longer periods. When I first arrived at Assumption Grotto, I could barely kneel 5 minutes on a soft kneeler, let alone on hard floor. I recall breaking out into a sweat in those early days when I first experienced Eucharistic Prayer I - so often used at Assumption Grotto.

In time, and with persistence, I learned a simple lesson. Some of you will recall a movie called Forrest Gump in which the character, after which the movie is named, coins the expression "Stupid is as stupid does". It became one of many popular Gumpisms. Well,.....

Reverent is as reverent does.

Romano Guardini so eloquently captures this simple lesson. Our outward expression of reverence towards the Lord comes from that interior act of reverence. It is not necessary to "feel" reverence. This is a mistake. Feeling reverence in the heart is a pure grace from God. It's not so much what we do when God makes something feel right and good. It's what we do when he takes the "training wheels" off and we are not graced with such good feelings. Do we persist even when he does not give us such a gift? This is true of all prayer, as well as with kneeling.

Never follow feelings; follow faith and reason. Let's humble ourselves on our knees before the Lord.

More on Kneeling

Catholic Encyclopedia Online: Genuflection
Kneeling and Faith in the Eucharist by Regis Scanlon
Theology of Kneeling by Josef Cardinal Ratzinger
Knees to Love Christ by Bishop Thomas Olmstead