By Father Stephen Page
We are all still readjusting, hopefully, and learning how to live and work and have our being within this worldwide pandemic.
One thing has come to my mind recently, and that is to recapture and reframe the Judeo-Christian virtue of the Sabbath rest. Those in the Jewish tradition know that the Sabbath rest that God ordained begins at sunset on each Friday, “Shabbat” as I was taught or told. And not just “Shabbat” but even more importantly, “Shabbat Shalom!” To wish one and all a Sabbath peace.
For those who acknowledge that this Jesus of Nazareth is the world’s long-awaited Messiah, or Anointed, the Sabbath is the day of resurrection. It is Sunday, the day of the re-Creation. Many Christians renew this fact and faith by celebrating this day of resurrection, “the Little Pasch, ‘Easter.’” This day of all the seven is dedicated not just to a cessation of our daily toil, work or occupations, but to connect with our relatives or family.
This day, a tradition for centuries, was a time for reflection, reading of Scripture, prayer and the practice of the corporal works of mercy, as found in the Gospel and Epistles and as taught in the Tradition of the church.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, the Sabbath, whether the weekly seventh day or the seventh year, called believers to look, find and reach out to those in need. Curiously, even the land, or as we might see it today, earth and creation, need to be given a Sabbath rest.
In our world where probably over half the people live “in town” or in big cities, the shutdown of our normal way of living is a challenging gift. It is a time to realign, a way to see this all as part of a Sabbath rest/Sabbath outreach to others very much less fortunate than many of us.
So as we re-prioritize our lives and lifestyles of the 90 days past, how might we integrate our belief into our personal habits? Everyone wants to get back to normal. Yet the wisdom folks of health and science are cautioning listeners that getting back to normal might not be something to expect.
An insightful spiritual director, guide and writer pointed out that according to many health professionals, a good physical workout ought to be 20 to 30 minutes consistently. He also said that it takes a good 20 to 30 minutes for meditation done consistently for 20 to 30 days to start taking effect or habit. Thus the “40” days of Lent makes perfect sense to me.
How long have we been trying to recover or regroup with social and physical distances? And if we have been on this unwelcome un-Sabbath sacramental fast, how is the sacred Sabbath day finding you and me?
(Father Stephen Page is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt)