When I entered religious life in my late 40’s, I was introduced (through living in community) to the practice of Sabbath, the intentional practice of keeping, truly keeping, the Sabbath. The Sabbath, for us Sunday, is meant to be a day kept separate from the ordinary. For me, Sabbath means I abstain from those things that are mundane, e.g., washing, cleaning house, grocery shopping, home repair, etc. In short, any responsibility. No committee meetings, no working on another project, no “I have to get this done.”
I have a young friend, a Sister with whom I live, who is involved with an organization for young Sisters. They always, to my chagrin, meet on Sunday. Every time they meet, I express my disappointment – not in them, but for them. It is more important for them – the “young Sisters” who are the busiest, and on whom there are more demands (not only from their congregations, but from life in general) – to keep the Sabbath.
Why? I quote here a very well known and succinct contemporary spiritualist and theologian, Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI:
“When you read the Judeo-Christian scriptures, particularly the early sections in Genesis which chronicle the creation of the world and how God “rested” on the Sabbath, you see that there’s a divinely-ordered rhythm to how work and rest are supposed to unfold in our lives. Briefly stated, there’s to be pattern, a rhythm, to our lives which works this way: You work for six days, and then have a one day sabbatical; you work for seven years, and then have a one-year sabbatical; you work for seven times seven years, and then have a Jubilee year, a sabbatical for the whole planet; and then you work for a lifetime, and go on an eternity of sabbatical.
“In essence, our lives of work, our everyday agenda, and our normal anxieties, are to be regularly punctuated by a time in which we lay down the hammer, lay down our agenda, lay down our work-a-day worries and simply sit, rest, vegetate, enjoy, soak-in, luxuriate, contemplate, pray, and let things take care of themselves for a while. That’s the biblical formula for health, spiritual, human, psychic, and bodily. And whenever we don’t do this voluntarily, in effect, whenever we neglect to do Sabbath in our lives, our bodies and minds are likely to do it for us by shutting down our energies. This is what is called Acedia. Acedia is our friend here: We will do Sabbath, one-way or the other.”
It’s a challenge to keep the Sabbath, but so necessary. In some ways, our world has taken a year-long sabbath, and forced us humans into doing the same. So I will continue to encourage my young friend to keep the Sabbath, before her body and mind shuts down her energies completely, and forces her into it.
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