For those of you who aren’t Orthodox, during Lent we do full prostrations where we completely bow down to God and touch our forehead to the floor. Many non-liturgical Christians see prostrations and think of them as a Muslim thing, but Orthodox and Catholics have been doing them before Islam existed and you’ll see the practice among some Anglicans, Lutherans, and the occasional Methodist.
Prostrations are typically done with the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem of Syria, a 4th century saint and one of the most prolific composers of hymnography in the Church:
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. (prostration)Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem of Syria
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. (prostration)
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen. (prostration)
There are many mentions in the Bible of prostrations using various wordings, usually rendered in English translations as falling on one’s face, but my favorite is the account in the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee that doesn’t use the word but is implied from the context:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”Luke 18:10-14
Let us flee from the pride of the Pharisee!Kontakion for the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee (Tone 4)
And learn humility from the Publican’s tears!
Let us cry to our Savior,
have mercy on us, only merciful One!