All of a sudden on a Friday about six weeks ago, I came down with a terrible cold. The rapid onset led to near constant runny nose and dripping eyes. Saturday morning, looking splotchy, and feeling exhausted and cranky, I cancelled most of my activities for that day and the next day too. All I could do was lie on the couch, drink tea, watch a little TV; my brain was too foggy even for reading. I woke up Monday greatly improved and sensed a spiritual message about the importance of rest through this experience, not the first time my body has given such a reminder via a minor illness that stops me in my tracks for a day or two. Observing a weekly Sabbath has always appealed to me but never seemed practical to life circumstances.
As Lent approached, I began to consider it more, influenced by my weekly Jewish class, naturally. The lesson on Shabbat had begun with the very passage of Exodus that we heard yesterday at mass in which God commands the people to keep holy the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant. Even God, who had no need to rest because of physical fatigue, rested on the seventh day after creating the world for six days. Focusing on the spirit of Sabbath, I talked with family members and arrived at an agreement to carve out a few hours on Sunday to turn off all screens and spend relaxed time together. Kieran and I have read aloud Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for a little while each Sunday since Lent began. We’ve both read it before but are taking pleasure in hearing the richness of Austen’s prose, especially the humor! Twice we’ve played board games or card games. One Sunday we invited dear friends over for brunch after church. I specifically planned a very simple menu to emphasize visiting together around the table, and it became a time of renewal even for me as the host. Yesterday tested my sense of Sabbath. I was particularly tired from the time change combined with difficulty sleeping the night before, so I couldn’t decide if I was observing Sabbath or just procrastinating as I lounged and dozed after our Austen interlude, various project deadlines nagging at the back of my mind. Worse, the beautiful weather made me feel guilty for hanging out at home instead of going to a park or the zoo. But isn’t resting the whole point of a Sabbath?? Resting the body has spiritual implications, too often overlooked.
In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else.”