On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
In the service of ordination into the priesthood there is a moment when the one to be ordained is invited to prostrate themselves. This is an invitation to lie face down on the ground in a posture of total submission. This moment comes as prayers of intercession are offered and as the Holy Spirit is invoked. It comes before the bishop lays on his hands and anoints the one to be admitted into the priesthood.
This act of prostration also comes at the beginning of the Good Friday liturgy. As those who are to lead their congregations in prayer as we recall Jesus’ humiliating and tortuous death on the cross enter the sanctuary, they are called to prostrate themselves before that cross as they silently offer prayer for fallen humanity.
The act of prostration is one of total submission. As we prostrate ourselves, whether physically or mentally, we are adopting a posture of vulnerability; we are showing that we are ready to unconditionally humble ourselves before the God who loved us so much that he sent his Son to earth to bring about our redemption.
This act of self-humbling is counter-cultural to our normal way of conducting our day-to-day lives. It flies in the face of our natural instinct to be the ‘top dog’ or ‘queen bee’. We like to get our own way in all things. We certainly do not like placing ourselves at the back of the queue in meek and humble submission to another, even when that other is God himself.
In Jesus’ final moments of earthly life he showed us how we might prostrate ourselves in humility and thanksgiving for all that he has done for us. At the Last Supper, the King of kings knelt in the place of the servant and washed the feet of his disciples. That act of humble prostration is one we are called to emulate as we demonstrate our commitment to loving God and neighbour with every fibre of our being. Then, on the Friday we call ‘Good’, Jesus prostrated himself once again. This time is was to have the nails hammered into his hands and feet before he was lifted up for all to see as he died for us.
When we reflect on Jesus’ final moments we are called to ask ourselves what right we have to ‘stand on our dignity’, to pursue our own selfish ends, to ignore the model we are given by the Son of God himself? We are reminded that we are all called to prostrate ourselves at Jesus’ feet and offer him thanks!
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