Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sabbaths for the soul

    “In the world to come each of us will be called into account for all the good things God put on earth which we refused to enjoy.”    - the Talmud
    When it comes to the enjoyment of God’s good gift of time, we tend to rush instead of rest, ruminate and worry instead of savoring each passing day, each priceless moment.
    As we take time to listen, we can hear a distinctive drumbeat of passing time marked by cycles of seasons, tides, mornings, evenings, days and nights. And if we pay attention, we note a regular rhythm inside us, our own amazing heart with its constant push and pause, our own steady pair of lungs that tense and relax, breathe out and breathe in with life-giving regularity. 
    Reflecting on this life pattern, one  that contributes to our soul's healing and renewal, poet Diana Zimmerman writes, “It’s not the rhythm humans make--planned and precise. Constancy is its rhythm, the repetition of crashing, sometimes fierce, sometimes gentle, and then retreating into the sea. It’s nature’s rhythm--the rhythm that we live: the in and out, the up and down, the high and low, the coming and going.  The perfection is not in its predictability, but in that it comes steadily, one after the other. Like days.”
    Along with nature’s drumbeat, there is the rhythm of holy time. The seven-day week, unlike the solar year or the lunar month, is divinely initiated. Six days we are to labor and do our work, but the seventh day is to be a holy “shabat” (rest), a time for recuperation and renewal for ourselves, our hired help, and even our work animals. It was to begin Friday evening with the entire family gathering to light the sabbath candle and to experience a time of quiet, a hallowed break in the routine of the week. 
    Some of us find it hard to experience regular sabbaths for the soul. Our good works and busy weeks prevent us from finding much time and space for God. “Wisdom does not in itself fill us,” someone has said, (but) “it creates an emptiness for God to fill.” Sabbaths represent this kind of invitation for the Holy to indwell us.
    We can also experience holy time in the rhythm of the Christian year, when we hear the drumbeat of God activity through annual reenactments of sacred events. We start with Advent, a time of expectant waiting and longing, followed by Christmas and Epiphany, celebrations of light and hope. Then comes Ash Wednesday, marking the start of forty days of soul searching leading to Holy Week, with its Maunday Thursday reminder of Christ’s last meal with his followers. This is followed by Good Friday, the darkest of all days, then by Easter, the brightest. 
    This healing rhythm reminds us of how God breaks into time, then ascends and leaves us to savor the Spirit’s renewing presence.
     And then returns all over again.
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