About a year ago, I traveled with a group of friends to Washington D.C. While there, we decided to visit the National Mall after dusk. We had heard that the area is spectacular with all of the evening night lights aglow. After walking around the pool to the various memorials, we concluded our tour at the Lincoln Memorial. I remember I was reading the Gettysburg Address, which is engraved on one of the walls of the memorial, and was interrupted by my friend jabbing me in the ribs with her elbow to direct my attention to a young couple who were at the feet of President Lincoln.
The young woman was facing him, her hands over her mouth in utter shock. The young man had a beautiful diamond ring in his hand and was down on one knee looking up at her. We automatically knew what was going on with that iconic gesture. He was asking her to spend the rest of her life with him in matrimony.
We get down on one knee in church and in front of royalty, but why does a man do it before the woman he loves? And why should we hold on tight to this well known tradition?
The origin of this tradition is unknown, but like I said, the action itself has been around for centuries. Catholics bend on one knee as a sign of respect toward the tabernacle before taking their seats for the Mass. Knights bend down on one before the king when being knighted and when presenting themselves in a show of honor to royalty. In war, the losing party would kneel in front of the army who won the battle in surrender.
Respect. Honor. Surrender. Those are the reasons behind the bended knee in a marriage. As a sign of respect, the man lowers himself as an act of humility before the woman he desires to spend the rest of his life with.
Furthermore, when he is on one knee, the man is face to face with the woman’s womb, where life is created. He is honoring her body and honoring her as the Lord’s creation, which deserves to be revered.
A man is surrendering himself and the rest of his life to her. He is surrendering bachelorhood for fatherhood in promising to raise children with her and remain faithful to her in all things.
I don’t know where that young couple from the Lincoln Memorial are now. Last time I saw them, I was leaving the monument and turned to see them sitting on the steps of the memorial discussing how they were going to tell their family and friends the big news. I don’t know whether they knew the significance and beauty behind his act of bending on one knee, but I do pray that she understands the gift of himself that he gave to her.
Hannah Critesis a freshman at Franciscan University of Steubenville, majoring in Theology and Mass Communications with a focus in Journalism. She hails from Denver, Colorado and enjoys eating Twizzlers, long walks on the beach, talking in a horrible British accent, and the word “discombobulate.” Check out more of what she has written at http://youngcatholiccentral.wordpress.com/