A Word in Season
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.
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.