On Bended Knee


O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
(Psalm 95: 6)

To kneel before God is a blessed thing. We are the only creatures who roam the earth with a free will, and the only ones with the freedom to give homage by kneeling to the One Who is worthy of it.

Of course, I’ve struck kneeling postures for many reasons besides prayer. As a wife and mother, I’ve often knelt beside the sickbed of a loved one, or to pick some thing off the floor, or to clean .

But there is nothing quite as peaceful as kneeling to adore the One Who made your heart, to sink slowly onto a bended knee before The Presence.

I’ve written before about the transforming power of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. For each person the experience is different and I can barely describe the sacred intimacies that come from those moments of yielding before the Lord—the One who made us and loves us with an unending bounty and unfathomable kindness.

To be sure, I’ve learned some things better on my knees than in other stances. Posture preaches. Gestures have interpretations.

Kneeling makes me smaller. It takes effort. Kneeling is a yielding out of love. I cannot jump up from that posture, at least at my age I cannot. I have to stay put at least for a little while.

When I kneel something physical unlocks; the upper and lower back muscles relax. My quads stretch. The heart rate lowers.

When I kneel, my focus sharpens. I am closer to the ground, or maybe, I just feel more grounded. I become aware of the heart in the left center of my chest.

Kneeling is reserved. I use it most when I am with God alone, and when I am with the Church. For me, kneeling signals prayer. It slows me down. It opens up a mental space, a zone where I concentrate only on what it in front of me, and what is within. In a curious paradox, despite the vulnerability of kneeling, I feel more open than closed when I kneel.

Kneeling is a posture of surrender. Some people may see this as a weakness; it can also be a certain posture of strength in that we are asking for divine guidance. We can view it as a sign of deep respect for God. And anyone who knows anything about love knows it grows from being rooted in respect.

In kneeling I am acutely aware of my littleness and my own need. But in so doing, I am most aware of my being me before the One who knows me: warts and all, insecurities and all, infirmities and all. It is the same One who knows me as someone beautiful, someone unrepeatable, someone beloved.

In recent years, I’ve had surgical repairs to a hip and an ankle. So I have had long rehab seasons when kneeling was an impossibility. These down times have forced me to lean on other people for support, not to mention walking with ever-present crutches and canes. They also took me out of my normal workflow, and forced me to be somewhat unscheduled. It took some getting used to—both the non-kneeling, and the reduced activity.

Most important, these times have taught me to kneel, instead, with the heart. To be rather than to do. And to learn that the doing is not as important as the being. For in those times of stillness, I have often received unexpected healing graces that come from God, the lover of my soul and the healer of my ills.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned in those fallow seasons.

Sometimes God needs us to rest for a while before he sends us elsewhere. If we are restless when we should be resting, chances are we are not paying attention to the business of being fallow ground, and this is exactly what we need. Fallow fields are neither empty nor useless, they are being saved from being depleted of their essential nutrients, so they can be fruitful in the coming season. Learn to seek calm, and soak up the sunlight of this quiet season. This is true recreation.

Sometimes God wants us to learn to be content with what is, rather than to pine for what is not. This fosters a sense of detachment from things, so that a stronger attachment to God can take place. Easy to say, harder to do, especially for do-ers. Start by making a list of what you have rather than what you lack. Find the smallest, most common thing you can be grateful for, and find delight in it. Think of a face that you love. You get the idea. Now thank God for your pain and offer it to him for that face. This is true relinquishment.

Finally, sometimes the physical healing we need is just the first step toward a deeper inner healing, and one that is more lasting. Sometimes we ignore the soul hurt until some body hurt forces us to the sidelines. Sometimes the “breaks” we need most are the ones that reveal our own inner brokenness and hurts, so that we are can be idle long enough for the Lord to be “near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). There he can do his most important work in us. Don’t ignore it any longer. Kneel with the heart. Lean in to Christ, like John, the beloved disciple, did at the Last Supper (John 13:23, 25). Then lean on Eucharist. This is true recollection.

Only in God’s economy could an injury, or a setback, become our ultimate gain. Only in God’s eyes could the kneeling of the heart—a kneel nobody else sees—be our closest communion, our bountiful blessing, our deepest heal.

 As Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials…

Almighty and merciful God,
in your goodness take away from us all that is harmful,
so that, made ready both in mind and body,
we may freely accomplish your will.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1742)

This article originally appeared on Patheos.com and is reprinted with permission.


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