Saturday, November 22, 2008

Standing, Kneeling, Prostrating

Anselm Samuel asked me today why we kneel and prostrate when we pray at home but not on Church at Sundy. Isn't that a great question? I was able to exlpain the Canon 20 Nicea and Canon 90 Trullo and how we obey the Canons of the councils. I was able to talk about repentence and celebration, preparation and fulfilment, dieing to orselves and ber raised with Jesus. I've never read the Trullo Canons, but I remembered reading something about it a couple of years ago on the Antiochian's website. I found it again today.

How come on Sunday at the Divine Liturgy some people kneel in church and some don't? (Dec. ’02)

Let us look to the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea (325 AD). The 20th Canon which states that on the Lord’s day (Sunday) and from Easter through Pentecost all must pray standing and not kneeling. Canon 90 from the Council in Trullo (692 AD) reinforces Canon 20 from Nicea and specifies that the celebration of the Resurrection on Sunday begins with the entrance at Vespers on Saturday evening through the entrance at Vespers on Sunday evening. We don’t kneel because kneeling is a posture of repentance. On that day we are not repenting, but celebrating the Resurrection.

During the week it is appropriate to kneel as an act of repentance and faithfulness. Since many Orthodox Christians don’t attend liturgical services throughout the week, the practice developed in many parishes to kneel on Sunday at the Divine Liturgy during the Consecration of the Gifts. It has become an act of piety for some and an act of following the crowd for others.

Ideally, we would have the opportunity to participate in the daily cycle of church services, but very few of our parishes offer them. In our daily prayer life, when possible, we ought to assume a kneeling posture for prayer as a humbling gesture before God. Then on Sundays, we would feel the obligatory desire to kneel but would piously stand in reverence throughout the service.

Also, I might add that the normative postures for prayer in the Orthodox Church are standing or kneeling — not sitting. Seats were available for the elderly and infirm in our mother churches. It wasn’t until the Protestant influence in America, that Orthodox churches adopted the regular use of pews. The Protestants had the pews due to the lengthy sermons, which are the focal part of their services.

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