The wonder puppy-almost-a-dog Nessie rests when she is tired. As she spends much of the day rushing about to get the ball, a bone treat, and her plastic green pig, she is frequently tired. When she is tired, she ceases to fetch the ball, want a bone treat, leap for the plastic pig, and sleeps on her “Made in Texas” dog pillow. Often she will find a bed or couch where someone also is resting and appropriate this space for snoring and dream of a land of eternal balls, bone treats, and indestructible plastic pigs.*
On this blessed Thanksgiving Day there is not wisdom to what Nessie does, she is a dog after all, but wisdom in our attending to how she lives. As a dog, she is a good dog. She knows how to behave to get her bone treat, good fun, and then rest. She is a fairly ideal animal.
This simple rest, stopping our pursuit of the good, truth, and beauty, is hard for some of us. We want more, and we should want more. We are immortal souls with bodies and so we should never be contented pets. In fact, no human licitly can be kept: we are born free under God’s sun and only men forge leashes. The work of a Christian polity is to snap all leashes places on any man. The work of justice is long: we have battled to end legalized abortion for decades and our job is still not done. We ended official Jim Crow, but tacit Jim Crow endures. Children will go to bed hungry this Thanksgiving eve.
There is an even greater longing toward beauty. We see a stone, a flawed piece of marble, and a Michelangelo releases The David. We see a hill and crown that hill with the Church of Holy Wisdom. Most of humans cannot do what our best exemplars can do, but we do what we can and what we can do is very great. We birth children, little images of God, and raise them to be free souls: a sublime thing. We have passions and yet say, “No” to those passions in ways no mere animal could ever do. In all the great cosmos, so far as we know, we are the only beings that can be moral: refusing to ignore what we are, but also not being bounded by that reality.
We see heretical Christian college faculty writing badly argued books, with laughable “scholarship,” that get NPR interviews and mainstream acclaim, because they fit the spirit of the age while taking pay based on student usury.
We are discouraged and tired: the global, Orthodox, children of God.
This is the point where we recollect that we are not just souls seeking eternity, but also bodies. We are tired of the injustice, even more tired of the nonsense.
Our bodies and souls need rest. We cannot fight without some sleep.
Nessie does what Nessie was created to do: sleep when weary. A great woman, a saint, like Saint Elizabeth New Martyr, can press through weariness, but even she must rest. If, in the end, the atheists gave her a rest that was eternal, that is the reward for those who follow God. Our foes give us a blessing that they cannot understand, though we pray they do so before the End.
Meanwhile, look to Nessie. She rests when her body is tired and so should we. The good God ordered rest one out of seven days and only the legalism of some practitioners obscures how remarkably marvelous this is. I cannot work on the Lord’s Day. I must pray, worship, but also recreate. God gave me a day to feast, a miniature Pascha. Thanks be to God!
Today is a day when we all can stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.
We need not work, earn, create. We can rest. We can feast, find a pillow, and sleep: animals with eternal souls.
*The man who places huge amounts of fluff in a dog chew toy is a bad man. Of the cleaning of fluff, there is no end.