WEEKLY WORD FROM THE FOLD
Taking the Knee in Various Ways
As a boy chorister trained in an English parish church, I took the knee whenever I approached the tabernacle where the Reserved Sacrament was kept. I did this well before I had any intellectual understanding as to why I was doing it. I just copied what the other boys did. It was, however, a habit that shaped my disposition towards sacred and holy things. So, today at CGS I take the knee on High Day and Holidays when the sacrament has been consecrated. It’s a reflexive nod toward my restrained English catholic training. As a priest at the altar I am seeking to embody the synthesis of the infinite with the finite, the eternal with the concrete here and how.
I also take the knee when blessing children and offering them the host. I seek to honor them by getting down to their level and in order to avoid “lauding it over them.” At home I am constantly taking the knee when cleaning up after the baby. I’m trying to save my lower back while getting the job done. So, at church and at home I take the knee as a sign of reverence and because I have gotten used to getting down low out of respect to others I am in relationship with.
In contrast, as a naturalized American I stand for the National Anthem at Fenway Park with my cap in hand. While still a Brit on a Green Card, I had gotten into that habit as a frequent visitor to the ballpark. Looking back I wasn’t standing up out of respect for the Flag. It wasn’t my flag to respect. I chose to stand because I felt it was necessary to participate in something bigger than myself. In contrast an Irish friend of mine didn’t stand on such an occasion and I was made anxious by his radical stance. Being British I never want to cause a scene in public! He made it clear to me that he was exercising his freedom to remain seated.
As the role of sitting, kneeling and standing for the National Anthem at sports events is debated, I find myself conflicted. On the one hand, I want to uphold the right of any individual to exercise their human freedom to kneel for the National Anthem, if there is a vital reason for doing so. On the other hand, I want to make a claim that patriotism is vital for our collective well-being, as we join in a unified transcendent affirmation of our sense of Nationhood. What I am looking for and can’t find at this critical hour is the synthesis of national pride and unity with a concrete desire to stand with the African American victims of police violence. Such is the level of distortion as actions and words are taken out of context and re-contextualized for political gain.
So, I take the knee out of humility of not knowing where comfort and resolution is to be found. I also take the knee as I recognize that within our church community members with whom I have a relationship, are taking various stances on this particular issue. My persistent hope is that we as a nation continue to seek a solution to both uphold the safety of our police officers and the most vulnerable and at-risk members of our communities. My spiritual desire is that the State and the churches continue to hold up the ideals of national unity and the peaceable kingdom that Jesus points towards in Holy Scripture.
See you Sunday,