The liberation of the Great Sabbath Rest

Today, even in ordinary times there is no Mass, no Communion – only the Liturgy of the Hours.

Nothing – the body of Jesus is in the tomb.

Father Damasus Winzen OSB, founder of Mount Saviour Monastery, reflected on this “great Sabbath rest.”

To the people of the [northern] hemisphere, always active and wanting to be kept busy, a day with nothing is a frightening prospect.

That’s where we are in almost all the world – a day with nothing. Curfew, confined to the house, with virtually nothing to do.

Many of us will fill the nothingness with time on the internet, watching movies, reading books, making bread, cleaning those rooms and those windows we’ve neglected for so long.

But are we missing something by trying to fill up our days? How can we make this time “a source of spiritual blessing for the individual and the family”?

I can give no answers, only a few thoughts, more for me than for others.

Though I am an introvert and have been called a hermit, I like to be in control, to get things done. I was thus in my element this week when I was asked to help drive food stuffs and soap to remote villages with some people working with the municipality.

But yesterday and today, I am alone in the house. I only went out once to say hello to neighbors and buy water. I am making bread.

So the words of Father Damasus challenge me. (Please excuse the non-inclusive language; it was written in 1957.)

Through his work, man exercises dominion over this world. By ceasing from all work on the seventh day he strips himself of his power and surrenders himself and all he owns to God’s supreme rule. The “rest” on the Sabbath is not a breathing spell to gather new strength for another week of effort. It means a consecration of man to glorify God, the opening of a new dimension, that of the Kingdom of God….
Let us then enter with Christ into the rest, and let us use this day to put the god of progress, who drives us into a whirl of external activity, down from his throne that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ may take our human destiny into his own almighty hands…. Christians are not slaves in the prison of this world. We do not try to build the tower of Babel to make a name for ourselves. We do not try to keep our destiny in our own hands. We are not “self-made men.” We recognize that these is something beyond the reach of our own activity, the realm of divine grace, which we enter through faith….
We do not mean that to say that all activity as such is bad. Man is called to work. It is unique distinction. But without the Sabbath he is bound to lose control over his activity. Work will become an end in itself, and lose its blessing. It becomes a wall between man and God, a veil which hides from his eyes the goodness and kindness of God, our Saviour, until the lights go out over man’s world and he, who has grown accustomed to trusting in himself alone, falls a victim to despair. The sabbath shows is that there is something beyond all human activity, the peace of God our Father, into which we enter through faith in his infinite love. He who has counted every hair on our heads holds us in the palm of his hand, so that even the darkness of the tomb is filled with the light of hope.

There is hope.

On my kitchen counter, the bread is rising. I did my part – and now I let the dough rest. And in its rest it will, God willing, rise.

So too, may our rest from the hectic world these days be the place where God rises to make a new world, a world where the poor have enough, where we don’t have to go out and give people food, but where people work and share – signs of the Reign of God.

The bread is rising.

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2 responses to “The liberation of the Great Sabbath Rest

  1. Thank you for what you are doing. Blessings.

  2. Thank you so much, Brother John. While I always look forward to reading your posts, I so needed this today. I also consider myself an introvert, enjoy my solitude and work best when I’m in control (or so I think). I am trying to recover from my week at work; a natural grocery store in a shoreline community east of NYC- no technology except an outdated telephone system, email address and printer (outdated as well). We closed our doors to the public 2 weeks ago because of a mass exodus from the city to open “summer homes” to ride out the pandemic. No problem except for the fact that many were not self-quarantining and coming in to shop for supplies. So we closed the doors and decided to take grocery orders and put the staff to work as shoppers and deliver curbside. Trying to implement this on the fly has been an extremely trying, and difficult task but we felt we needed to protect the health of everyone: our staff and customers alike. The “summer” attitudes have been so disheartening as the hoarding of food, supplies and astonishing sense of entitlement lingers on even now. This has been one of the most stressful periods of my life but continue to think of our healthcare workers to keep me going. God bless you for all that you do. And thank you for “listening.”

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