Saturday, April 30, 2011

Prayer, Worship and Service: Not Slacking

During the days of Lent, we tried to post every day. (We failed, and this provided good fodder for our Holy Week Mea Culpas.) It was part of our spiritual discipline for this holy time, which is traditionally the church's great season of ascesis (exercise).

Now that the joyful feast of Easter has arrived, we're all inclined to kick back a bit, breathe a deep sigh of relief and cut ourselves some breaks. Which is as it should be. The great Desert Fathers and Mothers recognized this. Abba Antony once said,

"It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs." (Thanks to Cistercian Publications, for this quote found here.)

Even the Rule of St. Benedict, that wonderful guideline for life in community, which advises "the life of a monk ought to have about it at all times the character of a Lenten observance" (Chapter 49), also legislates periods of rest. St. Benedict is tolerant of our human need for time off.

Times of intense focus and work--both inner and outer--need to be followed by periods of rest and receptivity. Just as a field which is regularly planted needs to lie fallow from time to time, so it can continue to be productive.

Not that anyone is slacking! There are still prayers to be said, services to be lead, the hungry to be fed, garbage to be taken out. Keep praying for 20 minutes a day, worshiping for 1 hour a week, and doing a day of service a month. But be sure you make some extra time for rest.

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