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#75448 03/28/03 09:08 PM
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Manuel Offline OP
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Dear Forum Members,

I've recently discovered the Prayer of St. Ephrem and I think it's beautiful! I'd like to make it a part of my devotions but I have a small problem. How do you make a proper prostration?

As a Latin I really have no experience in this (unless you count Veneration of the Cross which in my parish usually means getting on hands and knees to kiss the foot of the Cross).

So, How do you make a proper prostration?
Are there different ways of doing it or just one way?
Do you recite the prayer as you are doing it or do you recite verses between prostrations?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
Manuel.

#75449 03/28/03 09:40 PM
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Manuel Offline OP
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oops. double post. please ignore.

#75450 03/29/03 04:20 AM
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As no one has taken a crack at your inquiry, I'll try...

There are different ways of doing the prostration indicated. One is to what I'll call a full prostration: kneel down and then touch your forehead on the floor in front of you and then rise back to your feet. At my parish, some parishioners come out of their pews and do this during the prayer of St. Ephrem. If you can picture this, then you can see how it is impossible to do within a pew.

The reverence or partial prostration (my terms) consists of touching the floor with your right hand, typically making the sign of the cross before and/or after. This is what I usually do at home.

The third possibility would be a "bow." Bending at the waist until your back is horizontal to the floor and again making the sign of the cross as part of the motion.

The prostration should be done between the verses of the prayer and not while saying the prayer.

Some folks will get rather upset if they would know that you are during the "wrong" type of prostration. While there is usually a proscribed way of doing such things, what is right can vary from church to church, so I'd suggest you do what you feel comfortable with and that will help you in your prayer life.

#75451 03/29/03 04:20 PM
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Larry has put it very well!

The only thing I would add is that the Sign of the Cross usually accompanies each type of Reverence. (the Slavs do it before, i.e. Sign of the Cross then: bow or touch floor or full prostration) (the Greek tradition sometimes do the bow, etc. first then make the Sign of the Cross - I believe).

From your posting, for the Prayer of St. Ephrem, when done in Church, is usually done with the full Reverence, i.e. Sign of Cross (byzantine way, of course), then touch forehead to the floor.

A little trick is to learn to do it in one fluid motion, esp. getting up. Not only does it look good, save the soles of your good Church shoes (which I have cracked at the Great Canon because I did not do the prostrations well, squatting back on my haunches before standing up [granted they were not the highest quality good shoes]), and most importantly saves your thigh & back muscules A LOT of soreness.

The trick I learned is to make good use of the upper body. Hands on ground before kneeling down.

And especially, when getting up, push up hard on your hands to get up, rather than squatting back and then using your legs to push yourself up.

At home of course, you can use whatever form of Reverence most apt for your personal and physical condition.

I think you will find, if you are physically able, that there is a real special...."mode" of prayerful consciousness or feeling created doing a series of prostrations. It in itself is a wonderful prayer.

The prostrations are done 1st in between the 3 verses of St. Ephrem's prayer, then one says the prayer in it's entirety once through, followed by a final prostration.

Enjoy!

Peace be with us.

Herb

ps: I also found a simple explanation of prostrations and Reverences in the St. Elias website, a section called the Rough Guide:

http://www.saintelias.com/EtiquetteKK/EtiquetteKK_elia.html

#75452 03/31/03 01:29 AM
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I recall reading some time back that physical ability is taken into account with prostrations. The one I remember is that a pregnant woman doesn't need/is permitted to not do the full down to the floor but bows as she can (touching the floor with the right hand becoming tricky as the child within grows.

Hilde

#75453 04/08/03 08:21 PM
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Manuel Offline OP
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Thank you everyone for your responses. They've beem extrememely helpful, especially the link. Thanks!

#75454 04/09/03 01:53 PM
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Dear Manuel,

As Herbigny said, one flowing motion with the body is important when going down for the full prostration.

Traditional and Old Ritualist Orthodox Christians have an embroidered pillow or mat placed in front of them on which to place their hands when the make the full prostration.

This is to ensure that the right hand, considered sacred as this is the hand with which one Crosses one's self, is not soiled.

The head should touch the tops of the hands only, and not the floor directly.

And you should be facing a sacred icon when doing this at home, preferably directed Eastwards.

In addition to the Prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian, prostrations are done throughout the year using the Jesus Prayer.

In that case, the Sign of the Cross is made while saying the Prayer: "Lord" (touching the forehead) "Jesus Christ" (touching the stomach) "Son of God" (touching the right shoulder) "have mercy on me a sinner" (touching the left shoulder) and then the prostration or the bow to the waist.

Note that prostrations to the ground are never made on Sundays and great Feastdays and never during the 50 day Paschal Season, from Easter until Pentecost.

The only Western Christians that practiced prostrations were the Celtic Christians (some argue they weren't a "Church" but there are others who argue differently).

They made a full prostration after every two verses of Psalm 118/119 and continued with more psalms afterward until they had done 100 prostrations . . .

FYI, I now have images of Our Lady of Divine Providence of Puerto Rico and am getting Our Lady of Altagracia from Santo Domingo, something I picked up during our Caribbean cruise.

These are beautiful images of Our Lady. I also saw a richly appointed "Altar of the Dead" from Mexico in San Juan.

Alex

#75455 04/09/03 07:37 PM
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Manuel Offline OP
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Dear Alex
thanks for the extra info. I'm sure I can find an embroiedered pillow somewhere! It's all very fascinating. All the advice has been very practical too.Thank you.

A bit of trivia: while recently in Mexico an aunt showed me a prayerbook she had just purchased. As I browesed through it I skimmed through its "Stations of the Cross" and guess what? The book prescribed a prostration for each station. You can bet that grabbed my attention! I did not have time to look at it more closely but when I have the time (my web-access is very limited right now)I'll do a search for that book on the web and see if I can find out more about it. I remember it had "Lavalle Nacional Mexicano" written on the cover. I'm not sure if that was the publisher or what, maybe Snoopy or Memo know more about it.

God Bless,
Manuel

#75456 04/09/03 07:45 PM
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Dear Manuel,

How fascinating!

The Western Church actually did do a prostration at each Station as is contained in the Milan Synod's Western Rite prayerbook.

Latin Catholics, at each Station, would make a Cross on the floor and then would bow down to kiss it.

The practice of genuflecting was much later and it reflected the monarchical tradition of going down on one knee as an act of submission to one's sovereign.

Latin prayerbooks from the Middle Ages show the practice of genuflecting or prostrating at each Our Father or Hail Mary prayed on beads.

There was one practice that followed closely King Solomon's 1,000 sacrifice record in the bible: Before feasts of our Lord or our Lady, monks and nuns would recite either the Our Father or the Hail Mary 1,000 times, and would genuflect, bow or else make a prostration at the end of each prayer!

In Old Russia, this still exists, as it does on Mount Athos.

Monks there recite Our Fathers and Hail Mary's as a discipline and make the sign of the Cross at the end of each with a full prostration or else a bow.

Alex

#75457 04/09/03 07:54 PM
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Manuel Offline OP
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Dear Alex,

You wrote
Quote
The Western Church actually did do a prostration at each Station that is contained in the Milan Synod's Western Rite prayerbook.

Latin Catholics, at each Station, would make a Cross on the floor and then would bow down to kiss it.
I remember you mentioning this before a while back on another thread. I immediately thought of it when I looked at my aunt's book. Maybe this is a remnant of that practice or maybe it is later borrowing? Who knows?

In the reading I've done the practice of genuflection goes back to Roman times (edit: as a custom in itself, I don't mean a practice in the church ). At any rate it is now a venerable devotional practice in the West.

You are a wealth of information. Thanks for the help. If I come across an image of la Virgen de Altagracia, I'll let you know.

God bless,
Manuel

#75458 04/10/03 01:39 PM
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Dear Manuel,

Yes, there is much that the Church took from the Roman Empire by way of Christianized traditions!

The practice of our priests and, in the Latin Church, the Pope alone, to bless with two fingers while connecting the thumb and final two fingers was actually a Roman Senatorial practice. They raised their hand in this way to signify that they wished to say or do something very important and solemn!

The prostration was also a Roman military practice done to indicate "subjection" either to the Emperor or else to a conquering army.

The soldiers of a defeated army were obliged, by the Romans, to line up single file and then walk, head bowed low, under a spear that was held by two Roman soldiers at their waist level.

The low bow or even prostration was taken over by Church as an act of sorrow for sin etc.

My old Latin teacher loved to go into these things!

Actually, I'm getting a picture of Our Lady of Altagracia from the Shrine in Higuey, Dominican Republic - but thank you for your kindness!

As you know, it was crowned by the Pope when he visited there.

I was there two weeks ago, but was prevented from visiting the Shrine - next time wink .

Alex

#75459 04/10/03 01:47 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Larry L:
As no one has taken a crack at your inquiry, I'll try...

There are different ways of doing the prostration indicated. One is to what I'll call a full prostration: kneel down and then touch your forehead on the floor in front of you and then rise back to your feet. At my parish, some parishioners come out of their pews and do this during the prayer of St. Ephrem. If you can picture this, then you can see how it is impossible to do within a pew.

The reverence or partial prostration (my terms) consists of touching the floor with your right hand, typically making the sign of the cross before and/or after. This is what I usually do at home.

The third possibility would be a "bow." Bending at the waist until your back is horizontal to the floor and again making the sign of the cross as part of the motion.
Hello Larry,

I signed up for prostrations for dummies.

I understand the "how to". Thank you.

I do have a question about terminology. I have "book knowledge" (Melkite Catholic) of these in the East. I've heard them described as metanies. My definition of prostration (in the Latin Church) is to lie down in the prone position.

Could you clarify metany and prostration for me?
What Ritual church do your descriptions come from?

Thank you.

Paul

#75460 04/10/03 02:08 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by paromer:
I signed up for prostrations for dummies.
A question of terminology. I have "book knowledge" (Melkite Catholic) of these in the East. I've heard them described as metanies. My definition of prostration (in the Latin Church)is to lie down in the prone position.
Could you clarify metany and prostration for me?
What Ritual church do your descriptions come from?
Thank you.
Paul
I'm beginning to think that a course 101 [ at least that's what I think most of you would term it wink ] in Liturgical Positions is required by not a few of us. The problem comes as well from the various languages used - certainly I do get confused confused

Any chance of a Primer for non- Easterns ? :p

Anhelyna

#75461 04/10/03 05:54 PM
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Dear Pavl,

The difference between a "poklon," a "mentania," and a "prostration" is language. There is another difference between the first two and the last. We qualify them by saying the are big or small in some way. Where we use two distinct words ("bow" and "prostration"), one word is used in Slavonic and Greek. The word is then qualified (e.g. "to the ground" or "small") where one or the other is prescribed or prefered.

Adam K.

#75462 04/10/03 06:17 PM
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Dear Friends,

I didn't realize there were those with prostration problems . . . wink

My advice is to make sure the body's weight, in movement, is evenly distributed. Go down on both legs together at the same time - it'll take a while to get the hang of it.

Otherwise, you may find your right leg developing spasms etc.

After Prostration 101, the more advanced might have a look at the Orthodox monastic rule that goes like this:

With prayer rope or lestovka in hand, do 30 prostrations with the Jesus Prayer. Then just stand saying the remaining 70 quietly.

At the end of each "hundred" one may say the ending to each Stasis or Antiphon of the Kathismata of the Psalter: Glory be: Alleluia, Alleluia, Glory to you, O God (3 times) Lord have mercy (3 times) and Glory be once more.

Ten such "hundreds" could be said to fulfill the daily rule of 300 prostrations and 600 Jesus Prayers on their own.

Alex

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