Housekeeping

In her contribution to To Train His Soul in Books: Syriac Asceticism in Early Christianity , Susan Harvey describes how the “emergence of the ascetic single-sex household – and later its organized communal form, the monastery – appears to have brought a sea change in the (male) awareness of and attunement to the nature of mundane housework.”

Ephrem the Syrian, for instance, “portrays God as an effective housekeeper, likening God’s work in the defeat of heretics to that of the housekeeper who makes a broom of thorny twigs, sweeps up loose debris, binds it together in a tiny bundle, and throws it away.” Similarly, in his homily “On Admonition,” he “includes a section on the human person as a temple of God. Calling on the community of faithful to become builders who will turn their minds into temples fit for God, he presents the care and maintenance of the person – God’s house – in terms that mirror the tending and cleaning of the church building.” He urges his hearers to remove the filth, “sweep and cast out dying,” and to plant the seeds of good deeds, which will grow “like flowers and like blossoms” (141-2).

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