November 22, 2010

St. Dominic's Fourth Way of Prayer - genuflecting

When we walk into our local parish, we see the tabernacle and a candle lit next to it, and without thinking, we go down on one knee, pop back up and go to our pew.  We know, somewhere in the back of our minds, we are suppose to be acknowledging the loving presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  In all likelihood, we completely forget that this bodily action is meant to be a prayer.

Yet for St. Dominic, this was a form of prayer he would repeat over and over for hours before the crucifix.  This act of humility and reverence gave him confidence in God's mercy.  He would even genuflect to intercede for others.  His witness reminds us that what we do with our bodies in prayer is suppose to accompany a movement of heart.  In the case of a genuflection, we are expressing a movement of reverent humility that gives us confidence before God.

When the fiery Spaniard genuflected up and down into the night - probably on both knees - he would recite the psalms. This probably helped him maintain the right disposition before the Lord.  This way his actions were never empty external rituals, but profound expressions of the spiritual movement of his heart.

The psalms train our heart to be honest - so that our humility before God goes beyond a mere show.  They help us see how passionate our prayer before the Lord is supposed to be.   Urgent, expectant, even demanding - psalms are filled with an array of emotions.  There is nothing in the heart which cannot be the stuff of prayer.

The founder of a new community, entrusted with so many responsibilities, would even give the Lord his anxieties over those entrusted to his care.  He expected the Lord to answer him - so his repeated genuflections expressed a certain kind of holy insistence, like his own life depended on God hearing him.  To this end, the early brothers sometimes over heard him during his genuflections call out the opening verse of Psalm 28, "If you stay silent, I shall be like those who go down into the grave."

Known as the "Preacher of Grace," he would get so caught up in praying like this, its seemed like he was no longer aware of his surroundings.  Probably more to the point, he became aware of surroundings that our eyes normally do not see.  Holy desires were inflamed in him.  

What a repudiation of the clinically dry and socially acceptable kind of praying we do today!  The prayer of the saints is always passionate, always a movement out of self and into God.  Such prayer overflows into the lives of others and covers the whole world.  It is this kind of intensity of heart we were meant to have when we come into the the Lord's presence --  the very reason too we genuflect.