Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sacred Signs by Romano Guardini: Standing

Grotto altar boys and the faithful stand as they venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Feast of the Assumption


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

THE respect we owe to the infinite God requires of us a bearing suited to such a presence. The sense that we have of the greatness of His being, and, in His eyes, of the slightness of our own, is shown outwardly by our kneeling down to make ourselves small. But reverence has another way of expressing itself. When you are sitting down to rest or chat, and someone to whom you owe respect comes in and turns to speak to you, at once you stand up and remain standing so long as he is speaking and you are answering him. Why do we do this?

In the first place to stand up means that we are in possession of ourselves. Instead of sitting relaxed and at ease we take hold of ourselves; we stand, as it were, at attention, geared and ready for action. A man on his feet can come or go at once. He can take an order on the instant, or carry out an assignment the moment he is shown what is wanted.

Standing is the other side of reverence toward God. Kneeling is the side of worship in rest and quietness; standing is the side of vigilance and action. It is the respect of the servant in attendance, of the soldier on duty.

When the good news of the gospel is proclaimed, we stand up. Godparents stand when in the child's place they make the solemn profession of faith; children when they renew these promises at their first communion. Bridegroom and bride stand when they bind themselves at the altar to be faithful to their marriage vow. On these and the like occasions we stand up.

Even when we are praying alone, to pray standing may more forcibly express our inward state. The early Christians stood by preference. The "Orante," in the familiar catacomb representation, stands in her long flowing robes of a woman of rank and prays with outstretched hands, in perfect freedom, perfect obedience, quietly attending to the word, and in readiness to perform it with joy.

We may feel at times a sort of constraint in kneeling. One feels freer standing up, and in that case standing is the right position. But stand up straight: not leaning, both feet on the ground, the knees firm, not slackly bent, upright, in control. Prayer made thus is both free and obedient, both reverent and serviceable.


Note that Romano Guardini isn't suggesting that standing replace kneeling. He differentiates between appropriate times to kneel and appropriate times to stand. One must read both of his meditations - kneeling and standing - to get full context.

There are times for standing, even in prayer. Within the Liturgy of the hours that we stand, such as when we pray the Magnificat during Vespers.

One comment I would like to make is that about how we should stand when praying. It is something I learned fairly quick after discovering Assumption Grotto. I noticed that people stood straight - not slumped. They did not lean on one leg or the other. Just as Romano Guardini suggests - for the most part, all stand upright with feet planted firmly on the floor evenly.

I recognized this because I wanted to do as I had done all of my life in Church: lean on one leg or the other, hands in pockets, etc. But, I felt out of place doing this and it wasn't that anyone was glaring at me. It just seemed irreverent to stand in that manner after witnessing an entire congregation in a comfortable, reverent stance. It took a few months for me to not lean on one leg or the other.

Attention to such small details for me, ended up being a grace - which acted upon, enabled me to experience the Mass much better. Working on distractions is a lifetime effort.

Consider yourself on a job interview and standing in front of a potential boss. Body language says alot. Therefore, we should consider our body language before Our Lord and Creator.

Reverent is, as reverent does!