Have you noticed that our days of reflection are much more than stopping to reflect? That they are also entering into an atmosphere? Our Christian Carmelite mystical spirituality has gifted us with a new realm of being. We’re invited into a place of heavenly joy. We gather this energy in and through one another when together we remember the divine realm. It has biblical roots in the 3rd commandment , Ex. 20:8-12:
“Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days shall you labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you your son or daughter…your servants, alien residents in your town.” Everyone participates! “For in 6 days the Lord made heaven and earth the sea, and all that is in them but God rested the 7th day. Therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” He set it aside and made it holy.
The Jews have interiorized this notion and developed a special way of life around it. We thank Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the greatest figure of the 20th century for his book of reflections called The Sabbath. Here are a few of his teachings.
- The spiritual life begins to decay when we fail to sense the grandeur of what is eternal in time.
- On Sabbath manuha is created—which is happiness and stillness, peace and harmony. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters (symbol of eternal life)”
- The Sabbath is an example of the world to come. God blessed the Sabbath with the light of man’s face.
- The Sabbath is when we “stand still to embrace the presence of an eternal moment”
- The Sabbath is an isle of stillness where one may enter a harbor and reclaim her dignity. A day of detachment from practical affairs
- We abstain from toil and strain, even from strain in the service of God
- “We are able to sense the unity of all beings” (sounds like Pope Francis and Laudato Si) “to witness the perpetual marvel of the world’s coming into being is to sense the presence of the Giver in the given, to realize that the source of time is eternity.”
In the Rule of Life we have drawn up for Friends of Carmel, we include celebrating the Sabbath. We consider it a day for delighting in God and his creation. We anticipate the Sabbath all week. At our table we uplift our conversation on the Sabbath. Tongue and soul keep Sabbath.
Some of you may have met Nicole, a Jewish woman who retreated with us for nine months. She kept Sabbath faithfully, On Friday she prepared her house and food. On Sabbath (for her Saturday) she rested and prayed and studied Torah and entertained visitors who would share Sabbath with her.
When our Carmelite St. Teresa and her friends were planning the new foundation, weren’t they really creating a heaven/eternity-centered way of life? A place where these women were set apart so that their main preoccupation is being close to the face of God.
To begin our Sabbath-like day together we pray:
My soul has desired you all night, O eternal wisdom. And today I turn to you with all my heart.
May all that is beautiful and glorious in creatures praise you for me,
May all who surround you in heaven glorify you for me today.
May you fill my heart and set it on fire with your love.
It’s true, the world is in flames. And so what are we doing here taking a day off? Are we sitting it out? By no means. We are in the centre surrounding the throne of God pleading for help.
High above the flames is the cross drawing us into the bosom of the Trinity. “In the face of the world’s horrors,” says Edith Stein, “ you can be with Christ crucified at all fronts, wherever there is grief—the love of the divine heart is poured everywhere soothing, healing, saving.”