“And so it was. God saw all that He had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day. Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God had completed the work He had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day He rested after all His work of creating.” – Genesis 1:30b – 2:3
I had finally reached the end of a garden row, a row I had worked with a wooden hoe. My back ached; my hands felt blistered; my shirt felt heavy from the sweat of a hot day. I removed my wide straw hat so that I might take a gulp of cool water and might wipe my face dry with my handkerchief. And I thought, “One row done and nine to go!” I was suffering, but Brother Thomas to my right was whistling a tune and Brother Isaac to my left was whispering a psalm. I was hurting; but they somehow were rejoicing in the moment.
Saint Benedict advised his monks to performed daily some manual labor. Among Benedictines the phrase that is used is “Work is Prayer.” ‘Tis a worthy and beautiful thought … easily stated, but less easily practiced.
“Work is Prayer”. It sounds like a proverb from an ancient time, yet, I believe, it is one of the essentials of living the life of Christian discipleship … even today … in these days of cubicles and computers, spreadsheets and sales quotas, forms and figures, profits and losses, pressures and stresses. To live with a sense of work as prayer … surely that was more easily accomplished by farmers and fishermen, shepherds and sailors … in those fields of labor, a soul was in closer proximity to the world created by God; but today … when most of us labor midst the creations of humanity … can we still approach our work as a matter of prayer? I say, “It is possible, though I confess, not one easily accomplished.”
Brother Thomas and Brother Isaac and other Christian disciples I have known have practiced this ability to work in a spirit of prayer.
First, I sense they always ready their souls for the day’s work with a time of intentional prayer. Like football player who come out to field early to stretch and warm-up, or those musicians in an orchestra who come to the stage beforehand to tune both their instrument and their ear, so the Christian must ready his or her soul for the work that will follow.
Second, I sense they always pack in their souls songs of faith to be sung, sometime aloud, far more often in private hums and imaginary voice. They have at the ready a spirit of praise, a remembrance of thanksgiving, a vision of joy. Their souls “sing” as they work, overwhelming the aches of the muscles and the torment of the time clock. They worship wherever they are.
Third, I sense they have learned to work “easy with the flow”, embracing their labor not in the spirit of slavery but in the spirit of craftsmanship. They relax in the processes of their work, striving to somehow to make even their work a celebration of being alive in the “fields of the Lord”. They find a certain joy in feeling the “easy flow’ pass through their minds and hands. Like the time I work as a roofer. My first task was loading heavy bundles of shingles onto a truck. As I began this new work, I grunted as I lifted, staggered as I carried the heavy shingles. “Wow, was this labor!” The I observed the old men working beside me. They worked with such ease. How did they do it? They had learned and they had practiced the rhythm of the work — where I lifted the heavy bundles, they swung them upward; where I hoisted the heavy bundles, they roe with them. And with time, I learned their secrets of making heavy labor, easy work. And looking back, there IS something spiritual in understanding the secrets of “working easy with the flow.”
Fourth, I sense they find as much worth in life with fellow workers as the work itself, probably even more. Most people in the workplace tend to struggle with each other, living with a low-grade fever that mutters within themselves, “PEOPLE!” But these workers like Brothers Timothy and Isaac and all the others saintly workers … they seem to commit themselves to loving their fellow workers … even those most difficult to love. It is as though they have made a conscious and concerted effort to create a good place to work.
“Work is Prayer.” Indeed, a thought easily spoken and less easily lived … but still, a worthy mission. For we are called as Christian disciples to live holy lives … every hour of the week, not just Sunday at 11:00. We are called to live our lives as a prayer … even those hours of our lives where we work in farms and factories, sheepfolds and stores.
One last thought, my Loved Ones. For those of us retired from our former vocations … no matter how long we live … we are still called to a rhythm of six days of work and a day of rest. Why? For it is a good thing for the soul. And though our retired vocation may receive little or no pay, we still have some holy work to do. Now, we have the freedom to do that work … unburdened of the pressures and the time clock, to do the quality of work that we can most enjoy. Volunteer, serve, assist, create.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).