Question on Prostration


Respected Thirumeni,

We, the Orthodox community has a practice to kneel down during our prayers, particularly when we do the cross during Kauma and also at certain other occasions. But there are some restrictions for this act that we should not kneel down from Saturday evening prayers onwards up to the 9th hour prayers on Sunday. We are also not to resort to kneeling similarly on Maranaya feast days. Again, we are not permitted to kneel down during the fifty day period from Easter up to the Pentecost. These are what I understand from our priests during their pieces of advice. But there are people who are not bothered about such restrictions and whenever some young man breaks this, I do advise him.

During the post Christmas week, I had been to Parumala and saw a 40 year looking man kneeling down in front of the Parumala chapel’s Madbaha after the Holy Qurbana. I had seen him accepting the Holy Qurbana a few minutes earlier. So I approached him and spoke to him in a very humble tone. In an equally humble tone, he replied that he was from Kunnamkulam and that they had been doing this after the Holy Qurbana for long. He also advised me to check with “Bava” on this.

In this background, I look forward to Your Grace to know the correct position on this as per true Orthodox theology. I do understand that there is a theological background in kneeling down as well as for its restrictions on certain occasions. But if there is a theological truth, it cannot vary from area to area.

Please also advise me as to what are exactly the days when we are not supposed to kneel down because, during he Passion week, prior to Holy Qurbana, we do kneel down during the Evening, Midnight and Morning prayers ( Maundy Thursday, Holy Saturday ). Similarly, what about the days when we have Holy Qurbana on unscheduled days? eg: Some body’s 40th day of demise, Dukrono of departed fathers ( Saints or otherwise ), Feast days like Mayalto, Wednesday and Thursday of our three day lent, Transfiguration and so on.

Trust, Your Grace will find some time to look into this for a detailed clarification. But take time as Your Grace pleases.

With prayers, Your spiritual (?)

Dear (?)

Thank you for your mail and the query.
Regarding kneeling down practiced in our Church, you are right. But primarily this is a cultural thing. We see it in many cultures and communities. People kneel down or prostrate to express their subordination, humility and helplessness. Several  religions have made it a religious custom. For example in Hinduism it is called danda namskaram. You touch your body parts on the ground and submit yourself before a deity or honorable person. In Islam people sit down on a mat on the floor and bend over to touch their forehead on the ground. In Japan and in that region people bow down and greet others. It is not seen so much in western cultures. In many of the North Indian states when ever you meet a person of honor or respect they bend down and touch his/her feet. This, therefore is a personal matter too. When it is personal, it will not be controlled totally by rules and regulations. It is rather done in an emotional way. I have seen lot of people, particularly women, after H. Qurbana, stand on their knees in the Church and pray. Some times they do that in front of a tomb, if there is one, or in front of a picture of a saint (we in the Syriac tradition do not permit pictures in the Church. But now people widely use pictures and icons). It is personal piety and to say either or is not so much on our account.
Technically, we, Orthodox Christians in the Syriac tradition, are asked to prostrate when there is no immediate presence of the Lord. So we do not have to prostrate on Sundays (particularly after receiving Holy Qurbana), Lord’s days (moranaya days), and as you said on designated days that mark the presence of our Lord. But it does not prevent people from expressing their sincere and  innocent  piety through kneeling down or prostrating. It may not be wise to regulate, beyond a limit, expressions of personal piety as long as it does not bring serious offenses to the community or to other individuals. Of course community has to draw boundaries of behavior of its members. But it should not question the basic freedom of individuals and become slavish and oppressive. This is my opinion.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sunil Chacko
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:13:10

    I think Your Grace had made it clear on prostration during different liturgical weeks/days. I too had a similar, query on the subject, now it’s clear.

    Reply

  2. Blessen Varghese
    Dec 18, 2016 @ 19:15:40

    Hi Thirumeni,
    do we make prostrations after the Holy Qurbana on maundy Thursday and why?
    And what exactly does “prostration” mean?
    Thanks in advance
    Blessen

    Reply

    • Yuhanon Meletius
      Dec 19, 2016 @ 03:51:44

      Dear Blessen, prostration is a way of showing our total submission to the divine in body and spirit to the salvific work of Christ. It also involves penitence in action. It is assumed that when we attend the Holy Qurbana, we have participated in the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The Body and Blood of Christ confirms removal of sin and our estrangement from the divine. Once that is done there is no abstinence from food and no need for penitence. There is no greater submission than participation in the Holy Qurbana.

      Reply

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