Monday, April 16, 2012

Postures of Prayer

From the current issue of the New Oxford Review:

Did you know?
The Catholic act of kneeling before Christ in the Eucharist bespeaks openness and anticipation of receiving the Bread of Life, whereas the sensory enclosure of Muslim prostration shuts out the light and turns the self inward toward its own nothingness.

Prayer Postures: What They Mean & Why They Matter

Such interpretaive comparisons -- basically, metaphors -- can be of (mostly literary) interest, when done well:  as Chesterton did them, most brilliantly in his detective story “The Wrong Shape”, a tale that also addresses that matter of one’s own Nothingness.  (Father Brown on the different meanings of “I want nothing”, each time the swami said it, rank with the best literary criticism.)

But if you’re going to go that route, at least get your facts straight.

The typical Muslim prayer-posture is standing up.  The position of the arms vary with Sunni and Shia preferences, but a quite typical one is with the palms apart, open, and upwards.   Such a posture is, when it comes to that, clearly more outgoing than kneeling with palms pressed together.

Labbayka ....
The prostrations indeed exist, but are few in number  and not extended.  The fact that they are almost exclusively emphasized in the Western press, says more about the press, than about Islam.
They are, thus, nothing like the prolonged prone penitential posture of certain religious in Christendom.

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We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

For a while, I subscribed to NOR (and indeed, enjoyed my java from one of their signature mugs, which you can behold here) -- in part because my friend and spiritual advisor, Dr Massey, has been a contributor.   But the sort of tin-hat Tea-Party fervor that you might expect in Texas Tabernacles but which managed to infect a Catholic like Rick Santorum, may be seeping into the foundations of NOR as well.

With regret, I no longer subscribe.

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