Tebowing (and other liturgical acts)Posted: December 19, 2011
With the controversial popularity of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow raging this Advent , I thought I’d highlight some parallels between sports and liturgical acts. “Tebowing” is, after all, merely a synonym for genuflecting. There must be others, right? Let’s take a look.
First of all, Christians have been Tebowing for generations. Granted Anglican clergy have much better “vestments” (in this case a rose-colored chasuble for Gaudete Sunday — the Third Sunday of Advent). Wippell’s trumps Reebok any day. The act of genuflecting as a sign of respect pre-dates Christianity and it’s said that Alexander the Great incorporating genuflection into court ritual. Many continue the practice of genuflecting when entering and leaving church pews to reverence the Blessed Sacrament typically reserved in an aumbry or tabernacle as a sign of Christ’s presence. Tebowing seems to combine genuflection with a brief prayer. Unfortunately it doesn’t help him complete a higher percentage of his passes.
Now onto another liturgical act: elevation. At a Eucharist (mass) the priest elevates the bread and/or chalice following the Words of Institution (“Do this in remembrance of me”). This is the highlight of the liturgy in the same way that elevating the Stanley Cup is the highpoint of the NHL season. Traditionally the elevation of the bread and wine is accompanied by the ringing of the Sanctus bell. Sanctus bells, like many liturgical practices, combines piety and practicality. When the mass was in Latin (and very long) the bells were a reminder for the faithful to look up from their private devotions to gaze upon the sacrament.
The Solemn Bow is used liturgically when reverencing the altar. It is a deep, full body bow that conveys honor and respect. In some parishes it takes the place of genuflecting. At a free-standing altar, the priest offers a solemn bow rather than a genuflection after the words of institution and the Great Amen. This prevents the priest from appearing to be a jack in the box behind the altar. A solemn bow is also used in karate as a sign of respect for one’s opponent (before trying to kick his butt).
The Orans position is the traditional and ancient posture of prayer, deriving from the Latin word for praying. By praying this way, the worshiper acknowledges God as external and transcendent and in liturgy this posture is for thanksgiving, praise, and general prayers like collects. It is also used throughout the Great Thanksgiving as the priest blesses the bread and wine. It is used in sports as a posture of celebration, among other things.
Finally, the prone position, or prostration, is another ancient posture of prayer. It was the traditional posture for begging favors from a king when the favors are great and the petitioner is either desperate or has—literally—no standing before the king. It became the traditional posture for desperate, penitential, or intercessory prayer and is still used in some ordination rites. In sports it is often the posture of the agony of defeat.
Thanks to Tim Tebow for inspiring this post. He couldn’t beat the Patriots on Sunday afternoon but at least he gave me something fun to write about to take my mind off the Ravens’ annoying game versus the Chargers on Sunday Night Football.