Sunday, June 24, 2012

Right From The Knees

At the Mount of Olives, Jesus goes a short distance away from the apostles to pray. Pope Benedict XVI, in his blockbuster book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, makes these observations (pp. 153-154) about prayer postures as noted by the Gospel writers:
Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus falls on his face -- the prayer posture of extreme submission to the will of God, of radical self-offering to him. In the Western liturgy, this posture is still adopted on Good Friday, at monastic professions, and at ordinations.
Luke, however, has Jesus kneeling to pray. In terms of praying posture, then, he draws Jesus' night of anguish into the context of the history of Christian prayer: Stephen sinks to his knees in prayer as he is being stoned (Acts 7:60); Peter kneels before he wakes Tabitha from death (Acts 9:40); Paul kneels to bid farewell to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:26) and again when the disciples tell him not to go up to Jerusalem (Acts 21:5). Alois Stöger says on this subject: "When they were confronted with the power of death, they all prayed kneeling down. Martyrdom can be overcome only by prayer. Jesus is the model of martyrs."