20 April 20XX +1
My Dear Lucilius:
Another Sunday has come and gone. Yes, I went to church yet again (once again, the pews were full). Yes, I may or may not have had another brunch with Young Xerxes and Statiera and her mother (whom, apparently, I rather had come up with her own name, it appears). After that, the day was spent with what would have been formerly called “puttering”, but now probably goes more by the moniker “surviving” – tasks at hand in the greenhouse and in The Cabin proper to get ready for what I am hopeful will finally turn over into a useful Spring.
The fine thing about such small level tasks is that it allows the mind to work while the body is performing useful tasks. With nothing but time (and small tasks) on my mind, I found myself how I was spending my time on this Sunday, specifically on the concept of a Sabbath.
One of the great discussion we had once was on the Sabbath. I wonder if you recall it now: it was early Summer when the heat had still not arrived. We had both had our cider – perhaps a little more than we should have! - and were discussing our understanding of Sunday worship. You were ardently arguing your side and your practice, I was ardently arguing mine. What we came to an agreement on was that 1) Worship should always be part of the Sabbath; and 2) Rest should be some part of the Sabbath. We quibbled on what else fell into the “do/not do” category: I tried to abstain from electronics which you thought was no different from listening to the radio while driving to or from worship, you abstained from significant outside efforts, which I viewed as the opportunity to “get things done”.
I recalled that discussion as I went about my tasks in the cool wind (oh, but Spring is coming Lucilius. I know it), looking back towards the small town I have called home now for some years with the drifting smoke and sounds of children playing outside and dogs barking and the muffled sounds of work. What, I wondered, is the place of the Sabbath in this new world we find ourselves in?
One can argue that we face a similar situation as the Israelites (anciently) or sub-populations like the Mennonites (more recently) in that we are rapidly finding ourselves in an agricultural/survival environment. If no-one paid attention to St. Paul’s admonition “He who does not work, let him not eat” before, I doubt there are any disbelievers now. The amount of effort to do the things needed for survival is now a never ending, 7 day a week sort of job where daylight means the opportunity to get more done or in place.
What place, then, has the Sabbath?
For three weeks running now I have attended church (something I have not done regularly in years) and attended a meal with others. By the time we were done it was perhaps 1 PM. At this time of year, I easily still have 6-7 hours of useful daylight left. What part of that should be used as the other days of the week, and what other part in rest and refreshment?
I suspect it is a sliding scale of course: some times there is much to be done (and that can be done), sometimes there is little. But what occurs to me is that every Sabbath, it is valuable to take at least some time – 30 minutes, an hour – and simply “rest”. Rest, of course, to me is reading or writing; to you it was sitting and listening to your beloved radio programs. It is probably different for everyone. But I think the kernel of the practice, even in these times, is to set aside some period where we are to turn away – however briefly – from the vicissitudes of the world and seek some quiet and inner enjoyment.
We were such a busy society before, always spending every minute of the day doing things. Our relaxation often became just another task we had to accomplish. I wonder, Lucilius, how our view of that has changed now.
Your Obedient Servant,