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Reflection: Bodily Prayer to the God Who Took Bodily Form Mar 22, 2024

Palm Sunday
Fr Francis
Fr Francis

Bodily Prayer to the God Who Took Bodily Form

As Palm Sunday kicks off the final leg of our Lenten journey, we encounter a haze of rituals, followed by a dry week, followed by more haze at the Triduum. Rituals are bodily prayer and form part of the Catholic (and Orthodox) genius. Admittedly in recent times, Catholics have shifted emphasis to the spoken word and mental prayer, but these have been for
cultural and historical reasons rather than theological. As a result, the rituals which remain with us can at times seem trite.

It is precisely in Holy Week then, that I encourage you to rediscover the bodily dimension of our liturgy. Are you prepared to feel the boredom of the long days ahead? How will you use them? They need not be filled with prayer which is mental or verbal: what about a walk? Pilgrimages are an ancient form of prayer. The experience of being away from home and distractions are a chance to let the journey itself be a prayer – a prayer that says, “Jesus I have put everything aside and I can’t return to it in an instant; I am just going to be present to you around me”.

Our ritual pilgrimages, that is, – our processions on Palm Sunday for pastoral reasons (or perhaps medical!) start just outside the Church and then we go in. However, processions proper – to this day – begin at one church and terminate in the main Church/Cathedral/Basilica in places like Europe. Built into our pastoral considerations is a compromising of the experience of making to God a bodily offering – a bodily prayer. Nothing is stopping us from a contemplative walk (or walking to Church) from time to time.

On Good Friday, among other rituals, we will make a bodily offering, a bodily prayer, a bodily statement, by kissing the cross. If actions speak louder than words, then we are loudly saying: “I love you Jesus”. Sports stars often reach to their necks, pull out a cross and kiss it following a try. Their mouths are silent, but their body has prayed. When a parent kisses their child – the mouth is silent, but the love is communicated with equal force. Do you have a cross or image which you kiss/bow to? How do you show your affection for God on this side of death?

At mass, we make a sign of the cross. The early Christians spoke forcefully about the power of making the sign of the cross as a way of warding off evil. We need not become paranoid about evil, but with our arms we claim from God, Jesus’ dedication of himself to us on the cross.

At Easter we get sprinkled with Holy water. A sprinkling evokes the cleansing of baptism. Holy water sprinkled over anything says with the body, what we would pray for with our minds: “Lord keep this person/place/item free from all that is not of you. May it serve to give glory to you and do us good”. Every so often, a parishioner asks me to bless holy water to take home. You are welcome to request the same.

The list goes on and on. We will see these symbols and gestures used over the next week, but the next week merely gathers up a full-bodied way of prayer. For those of you who cannot bring your grand/children to the usual forms of prayer – you may wish to suggest as first steps in prayer: a prayer walk, a silent minute, a cross/image to kiss or venerate, a candle/lamp to light, a rosary to hold and the sign of the cross to learn. I leave it with you.

See you at the ceremonies!

 

Fr. Francis. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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