Monday, July 05, 2010

Meeting the Sabbath

The SabbathAttached to my computer monitor are two small reproductions of icons. They happen to be Mother of God Directress and Christ the Lifegiver, but nearly any traditional icon would have done.*  Icons are intended to be windows; both their production (known as "writing") and their contemplation give us sight beyond sight, a glimpse of the eternal reality.  On my monitor they remind me of (Orthodox) liturgy, which intends to duplicate that of the angels in the heavens, instantiating their worship on earth, binding the heavens and the earth in one glorious song. To be present to the icon or to the liturgy is to stand in a hyperthin place, on the very boundary between the material and the eternal, basking in and reflecting the heavens' golden glow.  When I take notice of the Mother of God and of the Lifegiver, for a moment I step out of today's technological duty into the real Presence of God.

There is in Heschel's Sabbath a same beauty that glimmers, pervading and perfuming the universe.  Heschel's prose is redolent of Sabbath itself, pointing as it does beyond description and into Reality.

As I consider what keeping sabbath might mean for me and my family, two themes assert themselves: rather than being a cessation from certain activities, sabbath is a presence to be met, and like any beloved guest, welcomed and cherished; and sabbath is a "sanctuary in time" -- reminding me that time is a most precious commodity.

If I do nothing but consider these two themes and live them out, our sabbaths will become icons as powerful as the ones on my monitor, and with God's grace, our lives come to resemble a divine liturgy -- the work of the people of the Heavens.

My in-progress notes on the book are here.

*Yes, I am excluding the lovely contemporary icons at St. Gregory of Nyssa and the Cathedral at Los Angeles, as well as many of those produced by Bridge Building Images, among others.  Their purpose is enshrinement, rather than revelation.

1 comment:

Elane said...

"The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments." Heschel, "The Sabbath"