Spirituality of Prostrations (Metanias)

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
With passion week around the corner :) and the numerous prostrations preformed, I wanted to know the spirituality behind doing prostrations. Any contemplations, thoughts, prayers while doing them, etc. would be awesome.

Why is it that during passion week, the church does so many prostrations, and why 400 on good friday?



  • They are a sign of penance.
    The Old Testament identifies the practice in different regards.
    It also requires effort which is different from simply standing.
    Ultimately it shows submission.

    The concept also carries the aspect of vulnerability.  When carries out the act and has the head placed to the ground, he is at the mercy of the person on front of him.  In that position we cannot assume any posture of attack or defiance.

    The Persian Emperors as an example would have their subjects approach the imperial throne by carrying out proskenesis and crawl forward with their faces bowed.  It allowed him to establish authority that if he did not like the person or that he wanted him eliminated, in that vulnerable state, a swordsman would decapitate the person.

    We in regard, submit our selves to the Almighty, in resignation to our sins.  We submit ourselves to His Mercy, knowing that we deserve the sentence of death for our sins.  We beseech His Mercy, no different than the presentation of the Prodigal Son to the Father, with full humility.

    For those of us with knee problems, it is difficult to carry out a full complement in Holy Week.

    Good Lent, and in anticipation of the Blessings of Holy Week, and the Triumph of the Holy Resurrection of the Saviour of the World.
  • http://www.suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?qid=929&catid=309
    The Prostration or Metania can be put into two categories.

    The first is worship, kneeling before God, in reverence, offering a sign of honour and glory.

    The second is repentance and humility when we remember our sins and prostrate asking God to forgive us our sins and have mercy on us.
    I once heard this contemplation..
    When we bow our head to the ground, we remember that we are made from this ground; dust. This creates the atmosphere of a humble spirit and plants fruits of repentance.
    I forgot who said it though.
  • It is good that we do prostrations as a sign of worship and repentance.

    We need to keep in mind that no prostrations should be made during the entire holy 50 days for we remember the resurrection.
  • Here is an excerpt from the book "Spirituality of the Rites of the Holy Liturgy" by H.G Abba Mettaos, its a bit long but very insightful,
    I hope you find it usefull.

    The Coptic Church, in its humble and meek spirit, teaches her children three types of prostration, or metanias (bowing). These are: prostrations of worship, repentance, and honor.
    1. Prostrations of Worship
    These are the prostrations offered to God during our individual or public worship, such as at the beginning of each of the hourly prayers when we say “Lord have mercy….” St. Isaac said about such prostrations, “Bow at the beginning of your worship, asking God from your heart, with humiliation, to give you patience and control over your thoughts during prayers.” St. John Cassian said about the monks in Egypt, “I saw them in prayer. When they have finished reciting the Psalm they do not prostrate themselves in a hurry, as if it is a duty they want to get out of the way, like many of us do, on the contrary, they stand for a while to raise a short prayer, then they prostrate themselves in awe and great devotion. After that, they get to their feet in a brisk manner, standing uprightly with all their thoughts absorbed in prayer.” The Church’s Canon defines the number and arrangement of such prostrations by saying, “the worshipper starts his prayer either with one or three prostrations. He should kneel down after each psalm or praise, or whenever the words “kneeling down” are contained in the prayer.” Believers (and in particular monks) who prostrate themselves as a daily routine during prayer follow these regulations. The aim of prostration is to offer thanks to the Lord for His great mercies, or for His help in a certain matter. These are known as thanksgiving prostrations. Another aim of prostrating in prayer is to implore the Lord to grant us certain virtues or to pray for other people, saying such things as, + “Thank You my Lord Jesus Christ, for You have saved us“, or,+ “Grant me, O Lord, the life of purity”, or, + “Grant me, O Lord, the life of patience and tolerance”, or, + “Grant me, O Lord, the life of complete love”, or focusing on any of the other virtues. The Church does not allow prostration on Saturdays and Sundays or during the fifty days of Pentecost or after having Holy Communion, because these occasions are considered to be joyous occasions.
    2. Prostrations of Repentance
    There are two types of these prostrations:
    + Offering metanias to God, asking Him to have mercy on us, to give us the life of repentance and to forgive us our sins. These prostrations may be given as a task from our father of confession for the repentance of a certain sin, either for practice or as a
    corrective measure.
    + Offered by a person to his brethren after a meeting of discussion or reconciliation. The other party should accept these metanias and offer a similar metania in return, then they should shake hands in love, reconciliation and forgiveness, as it is written in the
    Bible, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day and returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). The word “metanoia” is a Greek word which means repentance, that is, to change the mind from that which is wrong to that which is right. St. Paul says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” ( Romans 12:2). Prostrations offered from the heart are a powerful action in attempting to attain the forgiveness of those whom you have transgressed against. If sincere, they can wipe out all effects of insult or transgression, and refill the heart with a love greater than it felt before.
    3. Prostrations of Honor
    There are two kinds of these prostrations: Metanias offered to the martyrs and saints, and those offered to the fathers of the church.
    +Metanias offered before the bodies of the martyrs and saints to honor their bodies because they endured devotion, hunger, thirst, tears and sweat on account of their great love for our Lord, Jesus Christ. Through this they became a dwelling place for the Holy
    Spirit. We honor them according to the promise of our Lord, Who said, “For those who honor Me, I will honor, and those who despise Me, shall be lightly esteemed” (1Sam.2:30). With such prostrations we also honor God, Who worked in them and led them to the shores of eternal peace.
    +Metanias offered to the fathers of the Church, the Patriarch or bishops, are the second type of Prostrations of Honor in which we honor them as a sign of our love and obedience as they are ambassadors for Christ and successors of the Apostles in the holy Church. We also prostrate in worship to the Holy Spirit which dwells in them, through which they consecrate Altars and ordain priests and deacons. The Holy Bible is full of evidence that Prostrations of Honor to the clergy are proper.

  • A priest I know always describes metanias as falling into sin or temptations (when you go to the ground) and coming back up with God and strength (when you stand up again).
  • great posts. it's good to prostrate/bow often during lent, and if you don't your body as well as your spirit will not be very well prepared by Good Friday  ;)
    btw, at what stage in the Good Friday service do we do them? i seem to remember it's towards the end, but can anyone be more specific?
  • Right after the 12th hour exposition and before the procession and burial
  • thanks, so if church is like, 10am to 5pm, roughly when would that be to the nearest hour? (i have to come a bit late due to working a night shift)
  • about 4:15ish to 4:30. It is within the last hour of the service.

  • I agree with mabsoota, amazing posts! But does anyone know why we do 100 in each direction?
  • 4:30? Says you. In our church is 6:00 and sometimes 7:00pm
  • [quote author=Remnkemi link=topic=11206.msg135402#msg135402 date=1302129885]
    4:30? Says you. In our church is 6:00 and sometimes 7:00pm

    Well she said church ended 5. I was sort of shocked by service of 10-5 on Good Friday!
  • oops, that was in a different church and i may have remembered wrong.
    but usually there is a gap of a few hours between the day service and abogalypsees (no idea how to call it in english, it's the all-night service that ends with Holy Communion). i wanted to know roughly when it happened, so you answered the question.

    last time i didn't manage many metanias and my legs still hurt!
    i think we do it in all directions as we are asking God's mercy on the whole world.
    not sure why 400 though. but it is a wonderful experience to fast and pray and bow down before the Lord of Glory.

    only 2 weeks to go!  :)
    hmm, have lots of repentance to do...
  • Prostrations (Metanias)  is not only for Lenten days. They must be part of daily christian chores just like prayers. Actually when accompanied by fasting it is a killer for most wars of the devil. You can pray "Our Father in Heaven" in between or you can say words that begs God for forgiveness. The desert fathers usually make 1,200 or more prostrations day and night.
    Even for those who are possessed or oppressed by the devil prescribe prostrations with fasting and prayers. It reflects humility which is a great virtue for those who want to be closer to God or repel the devil.
    Thanks God that He has kept all the secret weapons intact in the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately a few uses them. We are mostly like someone with a loaded gun but forgets to shoot when we are robbed and killed by the devil.
  • They must be part of daily christian chores just like prayers.

    Not during the Holy 50 days, Sundays, Major and Minor feast days. This is according to the Church teaching.

    I understand this is not practiced nowadays but it is out of lack of knowledge.

    You can read more about it here


    Please, read an explanation by Fr. Peter at:


  • yes, on those days we can bow our heads without making full prostrations.
    1,200 prostrations?! wow, i can't even manage the Good Friday ones.
    i imagine the desert fathers didn't have time to go on tasbeha forums...
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