Body: The Outward Affects The Inward

Body: The Outward Affects The Inward February 2, 2014

Boots It’s tempting to think of the interior life as something that takes place entirely within your mind and heart, but as I pointed out a few weeks ago, it ’tain’t so. We are not souls who happen to be stuck in bodies for a while; we are human beings, a composite of body and soul, and whatever we do, we do with our whole beings. There’s always been a tendency within Christianity to forget this, and act as though the soul is really what we are; this is called angelism, and it’s simply a mistake. More than that, Christ came in the body, and sanctified the body; and Catholicism always and everywhere emphasizes this incarnational aspect of the Christian religion.

So when we pray, we mustn’t neglect to pray with our bodies as well as our minds and hearts. Kneeling in prayer is an obvious way to do this; another way, when praying an existing prayer like the Rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours, is to say the words out loud.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is sometimes inconvenient. I’ve been known to pray the Rosary or Morning Prayer on airplanes and in airports, and when I do that I keep my mouth shut. I can’t very well go into my closet, as Jesus tells us to do, but I can at least not draw attention to myself. And even at home, if I get up early to pray Morning Prayer, it might be rude to pray it out loud.

But fortunately, there’s a middle ground: say the words silently, under your breath, but really say them. Move your lips. This felt odd to me at first, but I soon got used to it. While doing it I’m really praying with my body; and there are two additional advantages. First, if you read the prayers silently to yourself, all in your head, it can be easy to skim them; moving your lips slows me down and helps me to pay attention. Second, if someone walks in while you are praying and sees you moving your lips while looking at your iPad, they can easily guess that you’re praying rather than reading a novel or playing solitaire, and they will leave you alone until you finish. At least, that’s how it works at my house.

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