The Catholic Defender: I Kneel Before The King of Kings
I reported to my first Duty Station at Ft. Stewart Georgia in the early Summer of 1985. Early on I had been challenged a number of times and ways about living my Catholic Faith. Even my Platoon Sergeant would ask me how I can be as strong about my faith and still be in the military.
They wondered how I could be in a situation where I might have to kill someone in war and how I could be Christian in the same breath. The 5th Commandment, tells us, "You shall not Kill" (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17), however, the Commandment is better explained as "You shall not murder". Killing someone who is innocent is murder, that is why I believe Abortion is murder as the child is totally innocent. Killing an unjust invader to defend your life and your family is not murder or immoral.
I would put it this way, "If we are under attack and an enemy was coming in to kill my buddy, to defend his life I would have to shoot to kill this enemy." The Catholic Church teaches the "Just War" scenario which gave a good explanation, but my non-Catholic friends were not totally sold on the issue. I felt that was interesting because some of them are nominal in their faith, they are still placed in the same situation. The Catholic position as always is the right one.
Sometimes my Commander and First Sergeant would ask me questions! My First Sergeants wife was Catholic and so he would ask me about the faith to better understand it.
I wanted to explain the faith the best I could:
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God". Kneeling has always been seen as an act of surrender to God, a sign of deep respect and reverence. Psalms 95:6 says, "Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For this is our God, whose people we are, God's well-tended flock".
In the Mass, we are truly "God's well-tended flock". In the Mass is found the true worship of God through the liturgy. In the Old Testament, we see King Solomon kneeling before the Altar of the Lord. 1 Kings 8:54 says, "When Solomon finished offering this entire prayer before the altar of the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands outstretched towards heaven". The Altar becomes "holy ground" because this is where the great sacrifice continues before the assembly. God's presence is made manifest before all through the invocation of the Priest. As the Psalmist proclaimed in anticipation to the Mass, "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord." Psalms 16:13 Tradition pictures that Moses at the burning bush went to his knees.
Artists have shown this sign of surrender in many paintings, I love the scene with Charlten Heston in the movie "The Ten Commandments"! God calls out, "Moses, Moses, He answered, 'Here I am', God said, 'Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob'. Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God". Quite simply, to kneel is to bend the knee, to fall or rest on the knees. That is what I picture Moses doing as he takes his sandals off. Is there a time in your life when you recognized the power of God and simply went to your knees? Maybe an extreme situation?
At Mass we kneel at the consecration of the Eucharist. We recognize God working and as his presence is made manifested at the Altar in the form of bread and wine, there are the three "P's", the purpose, the passion, the power representing the Trinity at each consecration. In the New Testament, we see kneeling as a sign of respect and great reverence. Matthew 17:14 says, "When they came to the crowd a man approached, knelt down before him (Jesus), and said, 'Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic and suffers severely; often he falls into fire, and often into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him". Jesus cures the boy, however, he tells the Apostles, "if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you". Jesus is teaching us about the importance of faith in Him, and as the man concerned about his son, we too should kneel before the King of kings especially when we approach him with humility. Mark 1:40 states, "A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, 'If you wish, you can make me clean". Moved with pity, he (Jesus) stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean'. The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean". This is another scene where tradition plays a role is the story of the man born blind whom Jesus heals.
There are many such stories in the New Testament where Jesus encountered the sick, the lame, and the blind. Jesus heals them all. The Church has always believed in the Divinity of Christ and because of this has always placed Jesus as the object of worship. We believe in the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever amen! John 9:35 says the following, "When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered and said, 'Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?' Jesus said to him, 'You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.' He said, 'I do believe, Lord,' and he worshiped him". Like the scene with Moses, I can see this healed blind man kneeling to Jesus with gratitude. There are a lot of such images found in the bible especially surrounding Jesus. This also reveals the kind of adoration people gave Jesus. Jesus was clearly being worshiped as in this scene. In the early Church, kneeling signified penance. So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter season, when the prevailing spirit of the Liturgy was one of joy and thanksgiving.
In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify homage, and more recently this posture has come to signify adoration, especially before the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It is for this reason that the bishops of the United States have chosen the posture of kneeling for the entire Eucharistic Prayer. Kneeling is also a sign of respect as seen when a Knight is being elevated or even if a heavenly manifestation such as the Blessed Virgin Mary or an angel appears. Our worship is to God alone, therefore, we do not kneel to images or apparitions, but we recognize God at work through them. There is a distinction of worship given to God alone, and the respect given the heavenly realm.
Often times you will see an image of children kneeling before the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Kneeling is seen here as paying honor and respect with attention to the message that comes from Heaven. Any true heavenly manifestation would not allow you to worship such an event unless it was Jesus personally speaking such as the case with St. Faustina when Jesus appeared to her giving us the message of the Divine Mercy.
When I left Fort Stewart to travel for a three year commitment in Germany, we had a number of Soldiers convert to the Catholic Faith and what a great honor it was to have played a part.