Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Lesson Learned from Prostrations

(Sometime last year I posted a list of 55 Precepts for Christian Living by Fr. Thomas Hopko. I have seen the list circulated quite a bit since then and I recently came across the suggestion of journaling through each item on the list. I thought that was a wonderful suggestion and, as I considered doing it, I decided that I'd like to share some of my thoughts here.)

5. Repeat a short prayer when your mind is not occupied. I think my first post in this little series covers this one pretty well too.

6. Make some prostrations when you pray.

I firmly believe that when we do right actions, even without full understanding, we can slowly change our hearts and eventually bring about right understanding. I experienced this in a profound way not long ago, while doing prostrations during prayer.

With a house full of children all currently under the age of 10, mothering can get pretty tough some days. Opportunities for strife and contention abound, and it's impossible extremely difficult to get through a day without at least once doing or saying something I ought not to have done or said.

This particular time happened to be pretty bad, to put it mildly. I was frustrated, ashamed and had a strong urge to just crawl back into bed and hope that tomorrow would be better. Except I couldn't do that, because it was 9a.m. and we were about to start our school work, which we always open with Morning Prayers.

I did not feel like praying. I felt like I had no business to be praying after the way the morning was going so far. But we started anyway. It was Lent and we were saying the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian.
O Lord and Master of my life,
Take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk;
We all bowed down to the ground on our knees. ("Yes, I need to be on my face on the ground. I can't even look my children in the eye right now.") We all got back up.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Your servant. (prostration)
We all bowed down again and got back up again.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother,
For You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen
By the end of the third prostration, it had hit me. We get down, we bow down to the ground, in a posture of humiliation. We are poor, destitute and needy. We have nothing to offer, nothing we can call our own. We cry out for mercy, and then God raises us up. He answers our prayer. We have no business wallowing in the mud of our sins. We are to get up, dust ourselves off and try again. Always with His help, always by His grace. But He lifts us up and expects us to keep on going.

Prostrations are a physical reminder of grace and mercy. The actions of our body reflect the inner actions of our souls. We fall daily, we fall hourly, even by the minute sometimes. And every. single. time we must get back up, brush of the dirt and keep on going.

"One of the fathers was asked, "What do you do all day in the monastery?" He replied, "We fall down and get up; fall down and get up; fall down and get up again." 


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