This may just be the longest period I have ever gone without posting to this blog. But have no fear I am back. Every thing needs a rest. The post below will explain the long absence.
This is the Hebrew word Shabbat. It is a sacred trust that God gave to the people. It means literally, the day of rest of ceasing. In the Christian tradition the day of Shabbat is Sunday. Things have changed mightily over the years and Sunday Sabbath is not what it used to be. I can remember my Nan, when she lived with us, looking away from the television set on Sundays if we were watching – even if Dad was watching CBC’s Meeting Place. Sunday came and you did not do chores, who simplified the day, you visited with the family and you attended church. There was no allowance for card games and according to Nan “sewing on Sunday” meant “ripping on Monday.” She proved that once when my sister-in-law Joanne sewed Robert’s pants for work on Monday. When he returned from work on Monday evening – BIG RIP! Dad tells stories from time to time (Well OK, he always tells stories) and he often recalls how they would bring in enough firewood and ‘splits’ (kindling for those from Upper Canada) and buckets of water for Sunday on Saturday so that Sunday’s Sabbath would mean true rest.[as an aside, I just heard my Dad say on Sunday Jan 6 that they also would bring in enough wood and splits for each day from Christmas Eve till old Christmas Day – the 12 days were also sacred] Indeed, even when I was a child there were NO stores open. We had to make sure that what we needed on Sunday was done on Saturday. At that time we were still heating our home with firewood and Dad would have us fill the wood-box in the porch to hold over till Monday.
Was it better then than now? I mean we just get up on Sunday and do our thing nowadays. The malls are open, the grocery store, the liquor store etc. There is no real sense of obligation for church and many of us would say thank God for that as we would for certain say that one should be at church out of a sense of offering oneself and not out of guilt. Things are not like they were 50 years ago. I can still hear my mother’s astonished disappointment when I told her a few years ago on a sunny Sunday afternoon that I just finished mowing the grass at the rectory! OR the time she discovered we had regularly scheduled cribbage games a few years back with Scott and Rae Anne. Not only was I taking my own soul down “a peg,” I was bring a church warden with me. Sunday is for many a very busy day – I know that it is such for me. If I were to take Sunday off what would it mean? There is no question for me that things were not all roses in “the good old days.” I would argue that there may have been worse things happening on a Sunday afternoon than a friendly game of crib – especially when siblings were not occupied. But it would be nice to get back the idea of rest and Sabbath. It is a real problem for me. I am notoriously bad for not taking a day in the week to rest. I realize that I take vacation as I just did and it is unbelievably valuable to the soul. But taking regular time to rest, recuperate and rejuvenate is a very important spiritual practice. I fear we have forgotten how to really do it. Some have lamented the stores being open on Sunday. I say “Who cares?” We do not HAVE to go every time they are open. I am glad they are open, others do not have Sunday Shabbat- so leave the blasted things open 24/7 for all I care. If being free of that cursed affliction called the mall on our Sabbath is important to us we simply will not go. We will bring in enough wood and splits the day before our Sabbath.
It all comes down to one thing. How can we take holy rest? Should in be on Sunday? Maybe – for some that works best. Should it be completely free of any activity? Maybe – some like to be totally still I guess, but believe me when I say, that is NOT for me. Should we try and simplify things? Definitely – the world has driven us to speed and excess and we should stop at least once a week and “get off” the ride and let the dizziness subside. For me personally, I just took some Sabbath days all at once. God was in the resting time, and I believe I needed the rest. Did I sit around in quiet solitude? No I did not. For me Sabbath included reading, writing, creating, and giving. Sabbath included loving and being loved. For me it included story-telling and laughter. It included good food and good cheer. Sabbath included being together and looking for comfort and in some cases it included being present to each other where there is no comfort. It included smiles and it included tears. But I did cease the day to day nature of my life and indulge in the simplicity and the benefits of being a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle and a friend. Thank God for Shabbat.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested [a] from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. – Genesis 2:2-3