Sunday, September 22, 2013


A fairly large group of freshmen from a local college visited the monastery yesterday. They were respectful and attentive, as they attended None from the back of the Abbey church. Before they departed one of them, a non-Catholic young man, asked gently, "Why do you all keep bowing all the time?" We told him about reverencing the altar and the reserved Blessed Sacrament (as it is Cistercian protocol that we genuflect only when just in front of the tabernacle.) And of course we bow at the end of each psalm for the doxology, the Gloria Patri...

It is a wonderful question though. Why bow? It is because in fact our life is meant to be entirely one of reverence, incessant reverence. We bow because of our awareness of our need and desire to honor God even with bodies as well as with our prayers; we bow to remember that His presence is here with us and that His Name is holy. Why not bow? We must bow! 

Two Monks Bowing, Stanley Roseman, 1979, chalk on paper,  35 x 50 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington.