When I returned to the Catholic Church in 2013, it truly felt like a homecoming. I was back in the once-familiar sacred environment I hadn’t even realized I had missed. Back among the statues, the artwork, the stained glass windows, the choir music and all of the sacramentals that add layers of beauty and meaning and value to our faith. And it was as if I saw everything with a fresh set of eyes. I was drawn to the mystery of the tabernacle. I studied the face of Mary in the Pieta. I learned (for the first time?) that the mammoth stained glass windows in our church actually depict the mysteries of the rosary. And I filled a bottle with holy water to take home for my newly-purchased font, like I had when I was a kid (and which, btw, would often have a thin layer of ice on the top of it on the extra-cold winter mornings in my unheated upstairs bedroom!). None of these holy elements were present in the Protestant churches I had attended for 25 years. And my soul had missed them dearly. It puts a grateful lump in my throat just to write about it five years later.
But do you want to know the most surprising item in Church that I never knew I missed and craved and needed in my spiritual life all those years away?
That’s right. When I came back to the Church, I also returned to the custom of kneeling on a regular basis: Kneeling during Mass. Kneeling during Adoration. And kneeling to pray every morning before the crucifix that hangs near my prayer chair.
I missed kneeling to worship my God. When I was a lukewarm cradle Catholic, using the kneelers was an automatic response to certain words and moments in the liturgy. I put no thought into it (other than when the kneelers would slip and make an embarrassingly loud crash on the marble floor!). I took it for granted. And the Protestant church we attended had no kneelers whatsoever, so the practice simply faded away.
But, oh, my dear friends, how we need to kneel.
That thought came rushing back to me this morning as I read Laura Kelly Fanucci’s reflection in the Blessed is She Advent Journal, “In the Beginning.” She was pondering the visit of the three wise men, and their instinct to fall down and worship the infant Christ Child when at last they found him. She surmised it was an overwhelming mixture of awe and wonder and joy that compelled them to fall to their knees.
I can name several times in my life when I fell to my knees, but it was not in awe and wonder and joy. It was in desperation: When my father-in-law coded after his heart surgery. When my dad died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. When my first baby was lost to miscarriage. Those are times when we involuntarily kneel because we can no longer support ourselves and we need the arms of Jesus to hold us, lift us, carry us.
But now, in this holy season of Advent, as I consider anew the coming of the Savior of the World, I want to fall to my knees more often. In awe and wonder and joy. But also in utter thankfulness. And in surrender. When I am on my knees with my head bowed, it is a posture of humility and surrender and reminds me that this is what my Lord wants from me.
“All He wants is us—not our wealth, or achievements or status or power. Just the open gift of ourselves. We can give Him this. There is nothing to achieve this Advent. There is only ourselves to surrender. He only wants you,” says Laura in the journal. “Sink to your knees. Turn to wonder and worship. Bow your head and let your heart rest in His in joy.”
She knows it. The three wise men knew it. And after decades away, I figured it out too.
We need to kneel.
Sink to your knees–at your bedside, at Mass, during a walk in the woods–wherever!–and give yourself to your Savior this Advent. It’s the best gift you could give him.