Monday, June 04, 2007

Fall before the Lord

Over and over it mentions in the Bible that when people encounter God, they fall on their faces to worship him.

I believe it.

For a couple of years I had a centering prayer practice. I did it very badly. While I was supposed to be emptying my head so I could invite God in, I would often dwell on other things. Some days it was mundane stuff like the groceries or bills. But once in awhile I would meditate on things from my past, with an eye to understanding a situation with more love or compassion or religious clarity.

And every once in awhile, I would experience such a thunderbolt of clarity it would feel like God was holding my head and turning it in the direction he wanted me to look. It felt like he was in the room with me, comforting me when I had to face some truth that had been plaguing me for years.

At those moments, I would feel physically compelled to drop out of the chair I was sitting in and kneel on the floor, face down, the warp and weft of the rug I was on, pressing it's impression into my bare knees, the marks of the wool knots on my forehead.

I would want to lay there for hours, sometimes. But I never did because I would grow impatient with the pain and get up, too soon.

The passage from Revelations yesterday described the elders of Heaven doing the very same thing: Falling on their faces before the Lord. They cast their crowns in front of Him.

What would that mean for me? What crown can I cast before him, I wonder? My biggest crown might very well be my own self. It is the most precious thing I have. Perhaps it is to be tossed in front of God, as a gesture of awe and thanks.

6 comments:

Nancy said...

I remember times like you described, when I felt compelled to drop to my knees before the throne of God, so to speak. Those were both powerful and overwhelmingly touching expereinces. It's been a while, and now I ask myself why this is. Opportunity? Willingness? Yes to both, and more I'm sure. I'll have to ponder this for a while.
Thanks for sharing Rachel.

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

Nancy,

I have noticed that too. It seems like the very heady moments have grown infrequent. I have my theories:

Part of it might be a maturing in the relationship with God. It was a little like a honeymoon period in the beginning, and now we are getting into the less frantic, more calm stage. The 'fall to my knees' stuff is spiritual consolation, often described by religious writers. But they also describe the dryness that follows as steps in the building of the relationship with God.

The other thing is that we are both in churches that are liturgically oriented. I am convinced that the liturgical calendar and the weekly celebration of the mass creates an internal rhythm that evens things out a little. I experience less of the extreme highs and lows and more of a constant sense of wonder and unfolding.

I miss the consolations. I write wistfully about them here. But I am reassured by reading the experiences of the saints that this is a normal part of a growing relationship with God.

What I know for sure, from reading about Mother Teresa, for example, is that the lack of consolations doesn't indicate spiritual lack. She had a dark night for over 50 years. She must have been a saint to be able to get through that.

lucy said...

you have just described an amazingly beautiful scene of worship. "perhaps it is to be tossed in front of God, as a gesture of awe and thanks." somehow when i am in those places where my "self" won't get out of the way, if i can just inch forward to awe and especially gratitude, it is like a "thunderbolt" bringing me directly to the feet (arms?) of God.

thank you for this lovely reminder.

Singing Owl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Singing Owl said...

Insightful, as always, Rachel. You may be right about the liturgical rythm of things (speaking as one from the other side of the asile. I think I see this as both positive and negative. Do you?

This has happened in church recently, to my surprise. I'll look out after an extended time of prayer, and sometimes silence, to see several heads missing, and turns out they are on the floor. I wonder what is happening?

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

Lucy,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It is nice to have you!

Singing Owl,

For me, it has been mostly positive. The emphasis on the liturgical means that I am less prone to getting carried away with my emotions and more focused on the actual worship of God. It has become less about my experience of worship and more about worship. That may not be a positive thing for everyone. In fact, I can certainly see how the liturgical church can be, at it's worst, a set of empty rituals. I haven't really experienced that, however.

And as I lean towards the charismatic, it has meant a bit of a loss, personally, that I am not in a place that has people falling on the floor during the service. The thought of that happening at my church is so inconceivable I actually laughed out loud just thinking of it.

BUT. (And this is a big But,) I have definitely felt the presence of our Lord during the Eucharist and if anything was going to get me to fall to my knees, that would be it. Luckily, in an Episcopal church, you are free to stand or kneel as you wish.

I want to visit your church someday, though!