Devil Has No Knees

(Bulletin, March 4, 2001)

During his forty days in the desert, the devil promised Jesus great riches and power if he would only "fall down and worship him." (Mt 4:9, Lk 4:7) Jesus responded that the only one for whom we should kneel in worship is God.

Throughout the Bible we see kneeling as a posture for worship. At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon "knelt upon his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel." (2 Chron 6:13) Likewise, after the Exile, Ezra say, "I fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God." (Ezra 9:5)

In the New Testament a leper kneels before Jesus (Mk 1:40) and Jesus himself kneels in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Acts of the Apostles tells how St. Peter (9:4), St. Paul (20:36) and the whole community (21:5) pray on their knees.

A second century writer named Hegesippus said that St. James (the "brother of the Lord" and first bishop of Jerusalem) had a kind of callous on his knees because he was always on his knees worshipping God and begging for his people. Kneeling is a natural posture for worship and supplication.

According to one of the Desert Fathers, the devil was compelled to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked pallid and ugly, with frighteningly thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical. While the devil seeks those who will worship him, he himself is incapable of worship.

These examples from the Bible and early Church were cited by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his wonderful book, The Spirit of the Liturgy. It's one I recommend warmly, especially his chapter on The Body and the Liturgy. I will try to cite other parts of it during Lent. This is a time when we recognize the role of our bodies in worshiping God. Fasting from richer foods, like meat, can be a way of expressing our submission to him. In the Mass and other sacraments we use bodily postures like standing and kneeling as an integral part of our worship.

It is easy for us to overlook the significance of our dual nature - body and spirit. We are both animal and rational. In our relationship with God we bring our physical as well as spiritual selves. We can sometimes think it does not matter what we do with our bodies, but that is not the case.

I would like to mention another way what we do with our bodies matters greatly. That is the difficult issue of chastity, which means the use of genital sexuality only in the context of marriage. Also there is a certain chastity which married couples must observe. A great help to living this teaching will be the course offered by Dr. Jan Hemstad, M.D. at Providence Hospital. Together with his wife, Darcy and Katherine Eames, they will teach a series of Spring classes at PROVIDENCE HOSPITAL 500-17th Avenue, Seattle. Beginning this Thursday, 7 -9 p.m., they will treat the following themes:

March 8, Basic Instruction - Scientific Basis, Personhood, Love and Life, and the Simplicity of the Ovulation Method

March 29, 2nd Instruction - Individual chart reviews and slide presentation

April 26, 3rd Instruction - Special Circumstances: Breastfeeding; coming off the pill; pre-menopause; irregular cycles

May 31, Final Presentation - Individual follow-up with the instructor is offered until couple is confident with the method

Also they will offer ongoing chart reviews and instruction in Spanish and English at Holy Family, the last Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon.

The Billings Ovulation Method is the most comprehensively researched of all methods of regulating births and is taught in over 120 countries. There are no drugs or devices and it provides the woman with health information. World Health Organization studies show effectiveness rates of 98-99% when couples are properly taught and the method correctly followed. The W.H.O. gave the method the name Billings Ovulation Method (BOM) to protect its authenticity. The BOM is the method Mother Teresa and her order taught in India. Current effectiveness rates of 100% are coming from studies out of China and India.

The instructors are Jan Hemstad, MD and Darcy Hemstad, RN, BSN. He is the director for the development of an Archdiocesan center for Natural Family Planning. She is the director of a local non-profit affiliate of the World Organization Ovulation Method Billings-International. WOOMB-NW. They are on the Board of Directors for the National Billings Ovulation Method, BOMA-USA and have used the method for over 11 years. Katherine Eames, MBA. Instructor of the Billings Ovulation Method. She is the Director of Religious Education for her parish. She is married and has used the method for over 10 years.

Contact the WOOMB-NW Office of Natural Family Planning for more information or to register for a class: Phone (206) ASK-4BOM or visit the web:

In both worship and morality we strive to offer God our entire selves - body as well as soul. He in turn comes to us not only spiritually, but in a bodily manner. For that reason the Second Person of the Trinity has assumed our very human nature. Jesus continues his physical presence through the sacraments, above all the Eucharist. This Lent, with the permission of Archbishop Brunett, we have begun round the clock Eucharistic Adoration. You will notice that our Ailbe House chapel has been beautifully renovated for the inauguration of this apostolate. Once again I invite you to find an hour each week for prayer before Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.


The Lord gave us all a "wake up call" with the Ash Wednesday earthquake. My immediate thought was for our school children. Fortunately our school and other buildings withstood the shaking with only very slight damage. Our children were well trained not to run outside but to seek protection under their desks.

The wake up call is not just to put our lives in order before God, but also in terms of stewardship of our buildings. Thankfully we had replaced the part of our school which seismically was the weakest - the old porch whose foundations had become detached and could have easily fallen. But we also must address the need for the interior seismic retrofitting. Next weekend our two-bit collection will be for our School Renovation Project. Please be generous. Also I encourage you to use the special envelopes to make a pledge to this project.

Homily First Sunday of Lent