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Author Topic: Shall We Sit, Stand, or Kneel to Pray?  (Read 5123 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 25, 2009, 09:34:00 PM »

I read this in my Catholic Parishes bulletin today. I was wondering about both Catholic and Orthodox thoughts on this...

When worshiping in another church, the priest says, "Let us pray," and you might find yourself looking around to see what everyone else is doing - standing, kneeling or sitting?

There are five traditional postures for prayer.

Standing with hands uplifted and open, head up, and eyes open is the oldest posture for prayer. It is called the orans position, from the Latin word for praying. By praying this way, the worshipper acknowledges God as external and transcendent. This posture is for thanksgiving, praise, blessings, benedictions, and general prayers. This is still the normal position for prayers in eastern churches and in Jewish synagogues, and it is still used in the western church, particularly when the clergy bless the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Standing with hands clasped at the waist, head bowed, and eyes averted or closed is the traditional posture of a shackled prisoner of war who is brought before the conquering king. The hands are clasped at the waist as if they were shacked in chains. The eyes are averted - in ancient times, looking directly at one's captor was insolent and a good way to get killed on the spot. This posture is for submissive petitions or for intercessory or penitential prayer, as we see in Luke 18:10-13.

Kneeling, either with the head up, eyes open, hands open, or with head down, eyes closed, and hands clasped is the traditional posture for requesting favors from a king, and so it became the traditional posture for prayers of repentance or supplication. The Council of Nicea in AD 325 forbade kneeling on Sundays, because penitential prayer is not appropriate during a celebration of the Resurrection. In western Christianity, kneeling came to mean simple humility and submission, and so kneeling became the normal posture for most prayers in the west. However, to eastern Christians, kneeling still means repentance or supplication.

Lying one's belly, hands up, either with the head up and eyes open or with the head down and the eyes averted or closed is the traditional posture for begging favors for a king when the favors are great and the petitioner is either desperate or has - literally - no standing before the king. It became the traditional posture for desperate, penitential, or intercessory prayer and is still used in eastern churches which have plenty of room because they don't have pews.

Sitting, head down, eyes averted or closed, and hands clasped. The Roman Catholic Church invented pews during the Middle-Ages, right before the Protestant Reformation. Since the Protestant Reformation was essentially a Christian education movement with very long sermons., the Protestants kept the pews even though they rejected just about everything else they regarded as a "Roman invention". As a result, sitting has become the normal posture for prayer for many western congregations.

So, why don't we kneel at St. Michael Church?

Aside from the lack of kneelers, we adhere to the teaching that the Eucharistic Prayer is not the responsibility of the priest alone. Rather it is the prayer of the church. Although spoken aloud by the presider, it is the public prayer of the assembly, beginning to end.

Following the Memorial Acclamation, the priest says:

"In memory of his death and resurrection. We offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup. We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you. May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit."


We demonstrate that thankfulness by actually standing in God's presence during the liturgy.


So, when do we kneel?

At St. Michael Church we kneel in awe and reverence before the tabernacle in which the reserved Body of Christ rests.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2009, 09:50:17 PM by ignatius » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2009, 10:32:00 PM »

So are you an inquirer or a catechumen in the Eastern Orthodox faith? 
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2009, 11:01:01 PM »

I'm not exactly sure what sort of discussion you expect from this.  From a Roman Catholic standpoint it seems fine, seems like it is just a truncated version of the Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic of Osma.  From an Orthodox standpoint, it seems fine too.  I'm glad it mentions how 'kneeling' and its meaning has evolved differently between the East and the West.
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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2009, 12:06:21 AM »

So are you an inquirer or a catechumen in the Eastern Orthodox faith? 

I've been attending the Orthodox Mission (now it's an actual temple) for several years now but mostly Vespers, Great Vespers and Feast Days... but officially I haven't taken entered into the catechumanate. Although the parish Priest has told me that he would like me to go ahead and enter I have had dogmatic as well as family challenges. I don't want to leave my daughter at our Roman Catholic Parish since my wife continues to take her to her Catechesis Classes on Wednesdays when I attend Vespers.

I'd describe myself as someone with one foot in the West and one foot in the East but I've had plenty of setbacks. I am very fond of St. Francis of Assisi (my patron Saint) as well as I St. Francis de Sales.
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2009, 12:21:20 AM »

I'm not exactly sure what sort of discussion you expect from this.  From a Roman Catholic standpoint it seems fine, seems like it is just a truncated version of the Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic of Osma.  From an Orthodox standpoint, it seems fine too.  I'm glad it mentions how 'kneeling' and its meaning has evolved differently between the East and the West.

At the Orthodox Parish I attend I've seen certain members prostrate when the Eucharist is brought out. Is this typical or is that a Russian thing?
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« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2009, 12:25:36 AM »

I'm not exactly sure what sort of discussion you expect from this.  From a Roman Catholic standpoint it seems fine, seems like it is just a truncated version of the Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic of Osma.  From an Orthodox standpoint, it seems fine too.  I'm glad it mentions how 'kneeling' and its meaning has evolved differently between the East and the West.

At the Orthodox Parish I attend I've seen certain members prostrate when the Eucharist is brought out. Is this typical or is that a Russian thing?

Personally, I have only witnessed this at Russian parishes (or ones with a Russian background), but I have heard it can be witnessed at non-Russian parishes as well.
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« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2009, 04:09:04 AM »

At the Orthodox Parish I attend I've seen certain members prostrate when the Eucharist is brought out. Is this typical or is that a Russian thing?

This is mostly a Russian thing.

I've attended Liturgy at UOC, OCA, Antiochian, and GOARCH parishes, and the Russians at the OCA were the most demonstrative in their piety. It's not to say there aren't pious people in other jurisdictions, it's just the Russians are a little more expressive about it during their worship. (At least from what I have experienced.)
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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2009, 07:02:07 AM »

In my parish most people kneel during: Cherub's Hymn, Eucharistic Prayer (from Let us lift up our hearts to   Again we offer unto thee this rational worship for those who in faith have gone before to their rest, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and for every righteous spirit in faith made perfect.), Lord's Prayer and sometimes before the Eucharist (the I believe, O Lord, and I confess... prayer which is spoken aloud just before Holly Communion in my parish.

I've heard that these practises were taken over from Byzantine Catholics. In my country hardly all Orthodox used to be ByzCaths from the beginning of XVIIth century up to 1830s.
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« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2009, 11:44:39 AM »

At the OCA parish I attend, we stand for the whole service except for the sermon.  Some people also sit while the clergy are communing behind the closed doors/curtain.  There are a couple older gentlemen who kneel during the Lord's Prayer, but otherwise we stand throughout.

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« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2009, 12:03:29 PM »

So are you an inquirer or a catechumen in the Eastern Orthodox faith? 

I've been attending the Orthodox Mission (now it's an actual temple) for several years now but mostly Vespers, Great Vespers and Feast Days... but officially I haven't taken entered into the catechumanate. Although the parish Priest has told me that he would like me to go ahead and enter I have had dogmatic as well as family challenges. I don't want to leave my daughter at our Roman Catholic Parish since my wife continues to take her to her Catechesis Classes on Wednesdays when I attend Vespers.

I'd describe myself as someone with one foot in the West and one foot in the East but I've had plenty of setbacks. I am very fond of St. Francis of Assisi (my patron Saint) as well as I St. Francis de Sales.

Just remember that when you would take the leap and enroll in public (in front of the church) as a catechumen you would be expected to stop attending Non-Eastern Orthodox Services as part of the commitment you will make by entering the catechumenate. 

And as far as kneeling, sitting, standing...every parish has their own uniqueness.  Some of these variances come from piety, some come from the fact that they have they Byzantine Catholic Pewbooks (because it has Slavonic in it, the old one not the new one) and the Byzantine Catholic Pewbook says "sit" "stand" kneel"  or in a particular Orthodox Jurisdiction the pewbook does the same, tells you when to sit, stand and kneel.  I'd rather just have people stand if they can, sit if they can't stand, you get my drift.
And for the sake of not derailing this thread I blame a lot on pews.
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« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2009, 12:59:26 PM »


Just remember that when you would take the leap and enroll in public (in front of the church) as a catechumen you would be expected to stop attending Non-Eastern Orthodox Services as part of the commitment you will make by entering the catechumenate.

Yes, will do. Right now my wife attends the Orthodox services only once in a great while. I haven't been able to get her to really 'buy in' to Orthodoxy. She really likes my Catholic Parish, even though she's not Catholic, she still Baptist but she attends at my Catholic Parish more than she attends at her church. Of course, she doesn't take communion at our Catholic parish. It's all very complicated.  Embarrassed

Quote
And as far as kneeling, sitting, standing...every parish has their own uniqueness.  Some of these variances come from piety, some come from the fact that they have they Byzantine Catholic Pewbooks (because it has Slavonic in it, the old one not the new one) and the Byzantine Catholic Pewbook says "sit" "stand" kneel"  or in a particular Orthodox Jurisdiction the pewbook does the same, tells you when to sit, stand and kneel.  I'd rather just have people stand if they can, sit if they can't stand, you get my drift.

So are there any of these "Pewbooks" online?

Quote
And for the sake of not derailing this thread I blame a lot on pews.

Even at my Catholic Parish we rarely make to into a pew because we always arrive within a few minutes of the Procession and can't find an open seat during the 11am Liturgy. Another reason I can't ever get my wife to come to the Orthodox Services because they are too early for her...  Sad

The rigors of of life...  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2009, 02:46:45 PM »


At my Ukrainian Orthodox parish, we love to kneel!   Wink

We "try" to stand for the entire Liturgy, however, we do kneel quite often at various points - the reading of the Gospel, the Cherubim Hymn/Great Entrance, the Eucharistic Prayer, the Lord's prayer, and then the final hymn - "Boje Velickij".

Additionally, we have people kneeling whenever the spirit moves them.  Every so often you see someone on their knees while everyone else is standing. 

It doesn't bother anyone.  To each their own...if they feel the need to pray ardently on their knees, more power to them!  Judge not.  It's the people who walk around at inappropriate times that distract others.  Those kneeling and earnestly praying....just encourage others to pray themselves.

It's all good.
As for the "pew books", we are actually in the process of printing some for our parish.   Some folks have acquired samples from various churches to be used as an example.  I do have an issue with stating whether someone needs to stand, kneel or sit at various times.  I am of the thought you either stand or kneel.  I am trying to convince them to leave the "sit" out of it.   We'll see how that goes.

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« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2009, 05:18:28 PM »

In my small Greek mission parish, we kneel only during the Holy Anaphora, when the priest, after he has said about the Holy Gifts, "We offer to You these gifts from Your own gifts in all and for all," continues in a low "mystical" voice: "Once again we offer to You this spiritual worship without the shedding of blood, and we ask, pray, and entreat You: send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here presented. And make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ. And that which is in this cup the precious Blood of Your Christ. Changing them by Your Holy Spirit. Amen, amen, amen. So that they may be to those who partake of them for vigilance of soul, forgiveness of sins, communion of Your Holy Spirit, fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven, confidence before You, and not in judgment or condemnation. Again, we offer this spiritual worship for those who repose in the faith, forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every righteous spirit made perfect in faith" (see here, http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/liturgy/liturgy.html). After this, the priest begins the rememberance of the Most Holy Theotokos, and at that point we all rise to our feet.

I don't recall any other moment of the Divine Liturgy when we kneel or prostrate.

In Ukraine, I believe, the custom is the same: we kneel during the Anaphora. On Sundays, actually, prostrations and long repetitive kneelings are canonically forbidden, aren't they?

About sitting: in my Greek parish, people sit during the reading of the Epistle and during the sermon after the reading of the Gospels. In Ukraine, no one ever sits (except severely handicapped), and there are never any pews in the church.
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« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2009, 06:10:05 PM »

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We have received from our divine Fathers the canon law that in honour of Christ’s resurrection, we are not to kneel on Sundays.  Lest therefore we should ignore the fulness of this observance we make it plain to the faithful that after the priests have gone to the Altar for Vespers on Saturdays (according to the prevailing custom) no one shall kneel in prayer until the evening of Sunday, at which time after the entrance for compline, again with bended knees we offer our prayers to the Lord.
- 90th canon of 5th-6th Council (in trullo).

What about sitting, there're hardly any pews in my parish. The're used by small kids, elderly people and those who don't feel well. The periods when they're used by mostly of the people who sit are: sermon after Gospel and the period after the Lord's Prayer and shutting the Emperor's to beginning of giving the Holly Communion.
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« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2009, 06:38:04 PM »


Just remember that when you would take the leap and enroll in public (in front of the church) as a catechumen you would be expected to stop attending Non-Eastern Orthodox Services as part of the commitment you will make by entering the catechumenate.

Yes, will do. Right now my wife attends the Orthodox services only once in a great while. I haven't been able to get her to really 'buy in' to Orthodoxy. She really likes my Catholic Parish, even though she's not Catholic, she still Baptist but she attends at my Catholic Parish more than she attends at her church. Of course, she doesn't take communion at our Catholic parish. It's all very complicated.  Embarrassed

Quote
And as far as kneeling, sitting, standing...every parish has their own uniqueness.  Some of these variances come from piety, some come from the fact that they have they Byzantine Catholic Pewbooks (because it has Slavonic in it, the old one not the new one) and the Byzantine Catholic Pewbook says "sit" "stand" kneel"  or in a particular Orthodox Jurisdiction the pewbook does the same, tells you when to sit, stand and kneel.  I'd rather just have people stand if they can, sit if they can't stand, you get my drift.

So are there any of these "Pewbooks" online?

Quote
And for the sake of not derailing this thread I blame a lot on pews.

Even at my Catholic Parish we rarely make to into a pew because we always arrive within a few minutes of the Procession and can't find an open seat during the 11am Liturgy. Another reason I can't ever get my wife to come to the Orthodox Services because they are too early for her...  Sad

The rigors of of life...  Roll Eyes

I was referring to the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese pewbook.  The ARCOD prayer book informs people when to sit, stand and kneel. 
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« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2009, 09:56:07 AM »

I was referring to the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese pewbook.  The ARCOD prayer book informs people when to sit, stand and kneel.

Do they instruct the faithful to kneel and if so when? I see Russian immigrants kneel often but I can't figure out when it is appropriate to do so. As Mike said... "In my parish most people kneel during: Cherub's Hymn, Eucharistic Prayer (from Let us lift up our hearts to   Again we offer unto thee this rational worship for those who in faith have gone before to their rest, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and for every righteous spirit in faith made perfect.), Lord's Prayer and sometimes before the Eucharist (the I believe, O Lord, and I confess... prayer which is spoken aloud just before Holly Communion in my parish."

Why is Mike's Parish kneeling and yet you say don't?
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« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2009, 02:04:55 PM »

Do they instruct the faithful to kneel and if so when? I see Russian immigrants kneel often but I can't figure out when it is appropriate to do so. As Mike said... "In my parish most people kneel during: Cherub's Hymn, Eucharistic Prayer (from Let us lift up our hearts to   Again we offer unto thee this rational worship for those who in faith have gone before to their rest, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and for every righteous spirit in faith made perfect.), Lord's Prayer and sometimes before the Eucharist (the I believe, O Lord, and I confess... prayer which is spoken aloud just before Holly Communion in my parish."

Why is Mike's Parish kneeling and yet you say don't?

Ignatius I believe you are being a bit legalistic about all of this. You have to understand, there are many customs within Orthodoxy that vary from parish to parish, jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Kneeling is one of them.

In the UOC parish I grew up in, we kneeled during the Cherubic Hymn and during the consecration.
In the OCA parish I went to for a few years, we never kneeled during Sunday Liturgy.
In the GOARCH parish I currently attend, we kneel during the consecration.
In the Antiochian parish I visited two weeks ago, we didn't kneel at all.

The Orthodox are not legalistic like the Catholics. While the posture of prayer is important, God cares more about the state of our hearts. I know some people that do a full prostration (like the Muslims -- they got it from us) during the consecration.

Does this make them holier than the people who are standing or kneeling? No.
Does this make the people who are standing or kneeling holier than them? No.

Orthodoxy gives a lot of room for people to be as physically expressive in their worship as they desire. While you won't see us clapping and dancing like the Charismatic Protestants  Wink , you will occasionally see people take the orans position (open hands) during the Lord's prayer, or go into a full prostration during the consecration, etc.

It's been my observation that those in the Russian tradition tend to be more physically expressive than other groups. I don't know why, they just are. While a person in the Greek tradition may just cross him/herself three times before venerating an icon, the Russian will cross themselves and touch the floor before venerating the icon. Not right or wrong, just different.

I hope this helps.

In XC,

Maureen


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« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2009, 09:23:28 PM »

When i and my brother were altar boy's we also had to kneel in the serbian church also the priest and congregation,,also i or my brother rang the hand bells .and the main church bell....
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« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2009, 10:46:52 PM »

I stand the whole time.  If I want to do a prostration on a Sunday, then I simply bow to the ground, as that is as low as I can get without putting my knees to the ground.

Some in my church do full prostrations on Sunday; especially the Ethiopians.  I do not think less or more of anyone based off of their personal practice.

I know the priest does a prostration at some point during the consecration.  He had me do a prostration when taking my catechumen vows, and that was on a Sunday.  So like everyone has said, the practices vary between parishes and persons.  No one seems to be too legalistic about it.
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« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2009, 10:55:58 PM »

Ignatius I believe you are being a bit legalistic about all of this.

The Orthodox are not legalistic like the Catholics. While the posture of prayer is important, God cares more about the state of our hearts. I know some people that do a full prostration (like the Muslims -- they got it from us) during the consecration.

Does this make them holier than the people who are standing or kneeling? No.
Does this make the people who are standing or kneeling holier than them? No.

I'm curious when did I make any judgments about this that I should criticized for being "legalistic"?

I've been told by some Orthodox that one shouldn't kneel on Sundays yet I see by all of the testimonies here that kneeling is very much a part of their worship. I'm interested in why this is...

I don't call this being 'legalistic' I call it being 'curious'. Some might know that for a time I had multiple accounts on the forum and this illuminates why I felt a need to do so. When someone here knows you are Catholic or you come from a Catholic background and you ask these kinds of questions you are labeled 'legalistic' for asking a simple question and lumped into someone's bias against this or that. It something that I've noticed as a Catholic on the forum It's a shame that individuals can't simply do their best to answer the question without judging why one is asking.
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« Reply #20 on: January 27, 2009, 11:44:13 PM »

I'm curious when did I make any judgments about this that I should criticized for being "legalistic"?

I've been told by some Orthodox that one shouldn't kneel on Sundays yet I see by all of the testimonies here that kneeling is very much a part of their worship. I'm interested in why this is...

I don't call this being 'legalistic' I call it being 'curious'. Some might know that for a time I had multiple accounts on the forum and this illuminates why I felt a need to do so. When someone here knows you are Catholic or you come from a Catholic background and you ask these kinds of questions you are labeled 'legalistic' for asking a simple question and lumped into someone's bias against this or that. It something that I've noticed as a Catholic on the forum It's a shame that individuals can't simply do their best to answer the question without judging why one is asking.

Ignatius,

I'm sorry if I came off as being judgmental as that was not my intent.

It is quite common for those who are new to Orthodoxy (not just Catholics) to try to pin point exact reasons or specifics for things, and quite often Orthodoxy is not dogmatic. I wasn't judging you because you are Catholic, but rather trying to meet you where you are at and show you the Orthodox mindset.

Again, I apologize for any insult or injury I may have caused.

Maureen
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« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2009, 11:53:58 PM »

i myself see nothing wrong with kneeling [humbling ones self, before the Lord present's on the Holy Altar] i think its great...
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« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2009, 12:51:35 AM »

Ignatius,

I'm sorry if I came off as being judgmental as that was not my intent.

It is quite common for those who are new to Orthodoxy (not just Catholics) to try to pin point exact reasons or specifics for things, and quite often Orthodoxy is not dogmatic. I wasn't judging you because you are Catholic, but rather trying to meet you where you are at and show you the Orthodox mindset.

Again, I apologize for any insult or injury I may have caused.

Maureen

Thanks Maureen,

Calling a Catholic or ex-Catholic "legalistic" is like a hate word... Protestants use it and it's doesn't have good connotations. EEK!

Thanks again for the kind reply.
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