“And now, a word about bowing . . .”
When we picture daily life inside a monastery or convent, we can see the nuns in their sweeping habits (now pants and a cardigan,) bowing before God. We know it is an every day obeisance for nuns in cloistered life, in and out of the chapel, at the altar, during Mass, many times each day. As habits have become more up-to-date, obeisance has become more curt and formal, but they bow, they acknowledge the majesty and the supremacy and the Presence of God.
Here in Cor Unum we love to take things out and look at them, especially our own hearts, opinions, shortcomings, and predilections. Is there anything for us in what they do so “religiously”? Is it religious? Would it be phony for us – a put on – if we were to begin to bring our deep bending of the knee before Him, when we rise? Before we sleep? Would He like it? Can we tell, one way or the other, how He feels about it? Why don’t we do it? Why should we?
Is it silly and superfluous? He doesn’t need our posturing. What real difference does it make? Lord God, give us the joys of honest faith, of truth in the inward parts! Perhaps we can answer all those questions with a quick survey of some of those who famously bowed in Scripture:
Abigail before King David: “When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, ‘My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say.’” (1 Samuel 25:23, 24) Abigail, we will recall, ended up married to David!
Then there was the Shunnamite woman, the one who built the prophet’s suite for Elisha: ”When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, ‘Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why.’” (2 Kings 4:27) This woman bowed before Elisha again, when her son was raised from the dead!
Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet, Mark 5:22. His daughter lived. The woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit fell at His feet, Mark 7:25. Her daughter was set free. The leper who was cleansed returned to Jesus and fell at His feet, Luke 17:16. Mary fell at His feet when she implored Him concerning her brother Lazarus, John 11:32.
We know the answers to our unasked questions. Is it silly and superfluous to bow before God? Is it just a religious act? Is there anything for us in it? We know the answers. There are two, primarily. First, He is worthy. Second, if He didn’t like it, He wouldn’t have made special note of those who did it! For our cloistered Sisters and for us, the real advantage and truth is that we needn’t wait until desperation, distress, and death arrive! We may bow low before Him – we may bow a tiny beginner bow this day, or learn online how to curtsey! Because we are alive! Because He is alive. Because He doesn’t demand it! That’s why we live monastically, here in this heart’s cloister, in order to abide in Him in keeping with His veiled beauty and glory and our hidden majesty. Not one of us will know what the other has done, except that we all know why we are here, seeking Him with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, all alone, together.