The act of stretching the soul
Re-creation, holy leisure, is the mainstay of the contemplative soul, and the theology of Sabbath is its cornerstone. “On the seventh day,” Scripture says, “God rested.” With that single image, the one line of Holy Writ, reflection, re-creation of the creative spirit, transcendence, the right to be bigger than what we do, is sanctified. To refuse to rest, to play, to run loose for a while on the assumptions that work is holier, worthier of God, more useful to humankind than refreshment, strikes at the very root of contemplation.
Life is about more than work. Work is useless, even destructive, it its purpose goes awry. What will keep work pristine if not the contemplative eye for truth and the contemplative compass for everything God called good? Recreation is the act of stretching the soul. When we stop the racReligious traditions that refuse to enjoy life, reject life. But religion that rejects life is no religion at all. It fails to connect the sacred now with the sacred beyond. To be a contemplative we must bring ourselves to life so that all of life can mediate God to us.e to nowhere, when we get off the carousel of productivity long enough to finally recognize that it is going in a circle, we reclaim a piece of our own humanity.
The purpose of recreation is to create a Sabbath of the soul. We need time to evaluate what we have done in the past. Like God, we must ask if what we spend our lives doing is really “good” for anyone. For me? For the people who will come after me? For the world in which I live right now?
We must assess the impact of our daily work on the lives of those around us. We must ask ourselves whether what we are doing with our lives and the way we are doing it is really worth the expenditure of a life, either our own or the lives of those with whom we come in contact. Only Sabbath, only re-creation, gives me the chance to step back and think, to open up and be made new, to walk through life with eyes up and heart open, to expand the human parts of my human experience.
Life is not meant to be dismal. Life is not an endurance test. Life is life, if we make it that. How do we know for sure that life is meant to be an excursion into joy? Because there is simply too much to enjoy: fishing in a back bay, the view from the mountaintop, wild berries on the hill, a street dance in the neighborhood, a good book, the parish festival, the city culture, the family reunion.
Religious traditions that refuse to enjoy life, reject life. But religion that rejects life is no religion at all. It fails to connect the sacred now with the sacred beyond. To be a contemplative we must bring ourselves to life so that all of life can mediate God to us.
—from Illuminated Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis)