Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
Every summer we try to step back from this wonderful work and take a bit of time off for planning, dreaming, and resting. Sabbath is one of the profound gifts of a generous and abundant divine presence who says that work is good and rest is necessary.
We are so grateful for all the ways this community supports our work in the world and we are eager to listen more deeply in the coming weeks to what new things want to be birthed through the Abbey in the coming year.
We will be taking a break from our weekly love notes and daily quotes and questions starting tomorrow and will return on Sunday, July 31st with more Abbey goodness. You are still welcome to email us (or register for programs) we might just be a bit slower to respond than usual.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann has a brilliant little book titled Sabbath as Resistance. He describes the origins of the practice of Sabbath in the story of the Exodus in which the Israelites are freed from endless productivity and relentless labor into a way of being where rest is essential and we reject our slavery to perpetual doing.
The God who is revealed in this story is completely unlike any they have known before, a God committed to relationship and rest. It is worth imagining for a moment the revolutionary power of this revelation and how strange the Israelites seemed to other cultures in their radical commitment to a day of rest each week as an act of resistance to the endless systems of anxiety. Everyone rested, no matter what gender or social class, because God saw that as very good.
It is worth further imagining the ways that each of us is enslaved by the current culture and system of perpetual overwork and exhaustion, of busyness and relentless doing. We may have our freedom on some levels, but how many of us choose to exercise that in favor of our own nourishment and replenishment?
I love that after their escape from slavery, Miriam and the other women dance in celebration because a new story has emerged. In the scripture text one of my favorite details is that they carried their tambourines with them in their flight from Egypt. In the mad rush to flee death and destruction, one of the essentials they carried with them were their musical instruments, what allows them to revel and dance.
We are sharing one of our newest dance videos above for the song “Holy Holy Holy” by Karen Drucker. My dear friend and teaching partner Betsey Beckman was inspired by the song to film this piece at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco with two other beautiful dancers. The video was originally created for our Lent retreat on Honoring Angels, Saints, and Ancestors but we felt inspired to share the joy with you here. Our longer-term vision is that the song will be on our next album (yes, we are already working away on it!) and be part of a fourth week of our Prayer Cycle series.
St. Gregory of Nyssa church has their own set of dancing monk icons encircling their community and accompanied by the power of the dancers the song comes to life in new ways. “I am/You are/We are holy, holy holy. Spirit Divine, come to me, feeling love, healing me. Open my heart, allow me to see, beauty and love, that lives in me.”
Part of how we do this is to set down our tasks, our deadlines, our notifications, our meetings, all of our doing. We embrace the spaciousness and lavish gift of rest in a culture that prefers to have us exhausted. We celebrate that we were made for this and in our restoration we live fully into the holiness we already embody.
Consider taking five minutes for a holy pause, a time of sacred rest, and breathe into the images offered in this song and dance. As the “holy, holy, holy” repeats see all parts of yourself saying yes to the sacredness of your being. That you need do nothing to be worthy, you are already a radiant light breaking through. Create space to shine brightly.
May the gift of Sabbath rest be yours in the days ahead.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Video © The Dancing Word