Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Monastic Bow

If you step inside a monastery or view a monastic choir, one thing that may strike you is that we do a lot of bowing.  What is this bow all about? We bow when entering the Church, during the liturgy, and to each other and to guests.  Bowing becomes part of our custom and way of life.   It is a way of giving respect and honor to the other - a letting go of my own self importance.  Like the sign of the cross, the bow is a body prayer.
As I bow, I am reminded of the earth and my own littleness.  It brings me back to the "humus" of humility.  But something wonderful can happen when I bow.  I can be overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.  In becoming open to the other - God, my neighbor, the earth - I find a much deeper relationship even with myself.  Benedict says it this way, "All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure. By a bow of the head or by a complete prostration of the body, Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them."  Rule of St Benedict, Chapter 53.

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