It is hard to believe that this is my seventh Sunday with you!
Some of you might have noticed that over the past month and a half that I have been doing some funny actions in worship, maybe more or different than what you are used to. You might be wondering – what is that guy up to!? Why would one want to do all that? Is it necessary?
Is it necessary? No. However, If God made this world, then that means that God is responsible for this body, that it is good. If God in the Incarnation chose to have a body in order to show us the extent of God’s love for us, then that suggests the redemptive potential, the holiness of this body.
Is it necessary? No. However, I find that it helps me to center myself, to focus, to engage more fully in prayer. My body is an integral part of who I am, and so if I want to bring all of who I am to God in prayer, then I cannot help but worship in an embodied way.
It is necessary? No. No one has to move their body in worship in any particular way. However, I wonder if you might be doing so already more than you realize. Maybe explore how you engage your body next time you are in church. Pay attention to how your body feels at different parts, how you are holding yourself, how you are breathing. What are your hands doing in different parts of the service? Do you clasp them together, shake hands with a neighbour, hold them up to receive the bread at the Eucharist? Are your eyes open, or are they closed? Is there any gesture or posture that feels especially right, or that you would miss if you didn’t do it?
Is it necessary? No. Nothing is lost in not moving our bodies in worship and prayer. However, for many, something is gained, enriched in this sort of intentional movement. So, I invite you to try an extra action sometime and see how its fits. Explore. Pay attention. Love this gift, this body, that you have been given. Bring it, along with your whole self to God in prayer.
Thanks be to God.
Below are a couple of the peculiar gestures and postures that I use during a service:
Orans – the orans is one of the most ancient positions associated with Christian prayer. The earliest images that we have of Christians in prayer show them in orans – arms spread and hands open. Originally, everyone prayed in this way, however, nowadays it is most often used for “presidential” prayers – when the presider leads the rest of the congregation in a prayer. Therefore, you will see me using orans during the Collect of the Day, the Eucharistic Prayer, the Prayer over the Gifts, and the Prayer after Communion.
When I pray with my body in this way, it feels good to be connected with one of the most ancient gestures in the church. When I pray with my body in this way, I imagine that in the lifting up of my hands, I am both releasing my praise and thanksgiving up to God, as well as receiving the love and grace that returns to me.
The Sign of the Cross – Making the Sign of the Cross is one of the most versatile of Christian gestures. It can be made over oneself, over an object(s), or over people. In the Western churches, the sign of the cross has historically been traced up-down-left-right, while in the Eastern churches it has been made left-right instead. This might seem trivial, but at certain times in history, it has been very important. I think it beautiful that East and West mirror each other in this way.
I make the sign of the cross over myself with the blessed water in the font, when I invoke the Trinity at the opening greeting, at the last lines of the Apostle’s Creed, during the Sanctus (the Holy, Holy, Holy), at the invocation of the Holy Spirit to descend upon the people in the Eucharistic prayer, and before receiving Communion. I also make the sign of the cross over the bread and wine during the Eucharist, and over the people of God gathered at the absolution and at the final blessing.
When I pray with my body in this way, it is always rooted in blessing, whether it be blessing bread, or myself, or you. When I pray with my body in this way, I find that it focuses and centers me to more fully engage with the particular movement or action of the liturgy.
I wonder if you have ever seen any other peculiar ways that people have engaged their bodies in prayer that you were curious about?