Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Body prayer

Many goods came out of the Protestant Reformation: focus on Scripture, community and individual access to God, the strengthening of science.  But one of the great losses of the Reformation was acknowledgement and awareness of our bodies. The more we allowed that all people had minds and souls, the less we saw that those minds and souls were attached to bodies, and that those bodies are as much a part of God's design as the mind and soul.  So spiritual practices that were body-focused fell away, or were specifically condemned as "papist" or "pagan".  We lost fasting, though it is Biblical. We lost prostration and kneeling before the altar, those our ancestors in faith practiced it. We lost icons and beads, though using one's eyes and hands to pray moves one's heart to contemplation. 
Where our bodies are involved, our hearts will follow.  Perhaps it is time for Prostestant Christians to reclaim ancient body practices.  Thanks to the Pentecostals, many of us now raise our hands in praise during singing. Some traditions retained kneeling as an expression of humility, and so some of us fall to our knees in prayer. Others used the sign of the cross when baptizing on the forehead.  From an Anglo-Catholic church my husband and I attended, I learned to bow at the name of Jesus Christ spoken during Worship.  That bow, that inclination of my head and body toward my Lord, reminds me that I am His servant.
Using one's body to make the sign of the cross can be traced back to at least the third century.  Using your hand to mark out head, heart, and shoulders in a single (or triple) large cross embraces your whole person.  Your body becomes the Cross; your head and heart -- mind and soul -- are made part of your body, and your body part of the Body of Christ.  With the sign, you say to yourself, "Christ is my Lord. I belong to Christ. I am Christ's body in this world."
What more fitting tribute to the God-in-flesh than to be his body in the world? Far better to be owned by him body mind and soul, than to commit the body to the ground even in life, and to wait for the mind and soul to follow. 
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.  (I Corinthians 6:19-20)


Anonymous said...

Oh Elaine, that's beautiful.
Blessed be the Name of the LORD.
-Melissa Hastings, Stuart's sister.

Anonymous said...

God made us embodied and called it good. What a blessing!

Thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

You're very welcome. I have some friends who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and I can see the enticement of all those sacred rituals. I also fast whenever i lose my way to help clear my mind and heart. I am sad that many of the Protestant sect don't seem to take those things seriously anymore.

BTW, Paul (my nephew) is just LOVING the singing in choir. He has been singing praise songs and hymns to me whenever I visit with the family. :)

-Melissa Hastings