Friday, July 20, 2012

liturgical posture

From my perch in the back pew, I saw a young man encounter the altar. He wavered. But he did not genuflect. Awkwardly, cautiously, the boy paused, unsure of what to do. A native of a casual world, a lax universe where blasé is king, he had been taught to view kneeling with askance. Rituals and rites (the embarrassment of the enlightened) are glossed over and ceremony is relegated to the superstitious and religious, which are of course, the same thing (in case that was unclear).

But this boy paused.

His muscles tensed, prepared but not committed to their next step. His eyes did not flicker, but gazed with clear, steady vision at the luminous gilded high altar. The staring competition between the altar and the boy lasted for the duration of only a few heartbeats, and then the moment passed. He moved on, but that breath of suspense, that small but piercingly significant rest in his motion was more praise than many genuflections often offer. That moment was a strong, virile young man encountering something--someone-- greater, deeper, more beautiful, more profound, more real. He encountered Someone outside himself, Someone to whom he owed homage. To whom he surrendered. That pause in front of the altar was a moment of surrender. A moment in which creature encountered creator. A moment in which the creature acknowledged, humble in its uncertainty and discomfort, that he was in the presence of a mystery. Of a great mystery, greater than himself. He stood upright as he stared at the altar.

But his soul was genuflected.

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