Last week I posted a series of questions from a friend of mine who is writing her dissertation on the theology of rest and the role that rest plays in the life of Christian ministers. Now, for my answers to her first set of questions:
- What gives you rest? What do you find restful? When we say “beautiful,” we mean “full of beauty;” then, what are we “full of” when we are restful? What does it mean to call something restful?
For me, rest is all about unstructured time. It’s an opportunity to live in the moment, which can mean just napping all day, or getting a spontaneous notion to go climb Stone Mountain, which of course involves physical exertion. But the key is that my calendar is open, allowing me to follow my heart even if just for a day.
- What do you need in order to rest? What do you do — or avoid doing — on your Sabbath day?
See above. The key for me is having unstructured time, which of course is indicative of how structured my life normally is.
- How do you understand the meaning of the ancient monastic phrase, otium negotiotissimum (”always be at rest yet never be idle“)?
Monastic life is by its very nature highly structured, and this continues, day in day out, seven days a week. I’m clear that I don’t have a call to such a life, even though it does appear attractive to me. I think the phrase otium negotiotissimum, for me, is a call to mindfulness: preventing my daily activity from devolving into freneticism, and likewise preventing my sabbath time from devolving into mindless pleasure-seeking. I don’t always live up to such mindfulness, but it seems to me that when I do, there can be a dimension of contemplative rest even in my work, and a dimension of purpose and integrity even in my Sabbath-time.
- What do you hear when Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27)?
I think “worldly” peace is merely the absence of conflict: it’s a negative peace. Christ’s peace, by contrast, is a postivie peace: not primarily the absence of something, but rather the presence of something: of God’s own Self, of the presence of the profound integral being-in-joy and being-in-delight and being-in-love. This being has nothing to prove and nothing to achieve, so of course it is profound rest. I’m not sure that human beings can fully participate in this being endlessly and still remain human, that seems to be fundamentally contradictory. But we can partially participate in it, and more fully participate from time to time (say, during sabbath or deep meditation). The deeper we go, the more peaceful/restful it gets.
- What do you hear when the Hebrews author says that the “Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God” (Hebrews 3:7-4:13)?
Part of Jesus’ radical revisioning of religion involves dismantling purity codes, and Sabbath observance can function as a purity obligation. Those who break the Sabbath laws are “unclean.” I think the Hebrews author is reminding Christians that, while we are no longer bound by a legalistic/purity-code convention regarding the Sabbath, we are still creatures fashioned in the image and likeness of God, and therefore need Sabbath rest. We just have to take responsibility for it without being legalistic.
- How would you connect rest and peace?
I think my answers already begin to connect those dots. Rest is something we do; peace is something God is. We enter more fully into rest when we open ourselves up to partake in God’s Divine nature — the nature of true peace.
Okay, more to come later!