Gratitude Blessing Spirit of Generosity, we come to you with hearts overflowing with gratitude for your abundant creation. As we awaken each morning, help us to remember this day is a gift, this breath is grace, this life a wonder. Remind us with every flower we see, every act of kindness, every moment of connection to something so much bigger than ourselves, to whisper thank you. Cultivate in us a sense of awe and trust in your lavish grace. Let each word of thanks we offer expand our hearts until delight inhabits us and we know love as our sustenance. (A blessing from a book Christine is working on)
Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
One of the things that makes contemplative life so counter-cultural is the active resistance against living a life of busyness and exhaustion, of not making that a badge of pride, of making time to ponder, to be more present, and to live life more slowly and attentively.
We are surrounded by messages of scarcity and so our anxiety gets fuelled. One of the most profound practices to resist this kind of anxiety, to fast from its hold on me, is the practice of Sabbath. Walter Brueggemann, in his wonderful book Sabbath as Resistance, writes that the practice of Sabbath emerges from the Exodus story, where the Israelites are freed from the relentless labor and productivity of the Pharaoh-system in which the people are enslaved and full of the anxiety that deprivation brings.
Yahweh enters in and liberates them from this exhaustion, commanding that they take rest each week. Today, we essentially live in this self-made, insatiable Pharaoh-system. We are not literally enslaved the way the Israelites were, but we are symbolically enslaved to a system which does not care for our well-being. So weary are we, so burdened by consumer debt, working long hours with very little time off.
So many take pride in wearing the badge of “busy.” So many are stretched thin to the very edges of their resources and capacity.
When we practice Sabbath, we are making a visible statement that our lives are not defined by this perpetual anxiety. At the heart of this relationship is a God who celebrates the gift of rest and abundance. But, Brueggemann says we are so beholden to “accomplishing and achieving and possessing” that we refuse the gift of simply being given to us.
The Israelites, and we ourselves, must leave Egypt and our enslavement to be able to dance and sing in freedom the way Miriam did with her timbrel after crossing the red sea. Dance is a celebratory act—not “productive” but restorative. When we don’t allow ourselves the gift of Sabbath rest, we deny the foundational joy that is our birthright as children of God. To dance in freedom is a prophetic act.
We are called to regularly cease, to trust the world will continue on without us, and to know this embodiment of grace and gift is revolutionary. Nothing else needs to be done. We fool ourselves so easily into thinking if we only work hard enough, we will earn our freedom. But the practice of freedom comes now, amid the demands of the world.
Thomas Merton wrote in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: “Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand.” This is a thoroughly monastic vision, to recognize that paradise or heaven is not some reality after we die, but a living presence now. Capitalism tells us the opposite, that we can buy paradise if we only work hard enough.
This experience of divine abundance can make us feel both immense – connected to this lavish extravagance – and small, meaning human and limited in our capacity to fully understand.
If you are in a position in life to practice financial generosity to support our programs, the doors to our Sustainers Circle will be open for registration until the end of this month (Saturday!). Thank you to everyone who has joined us and helps us to support our many free offerings and scholarship support. We believe this contemplative path should be as accessible as possible and are grateful for those who are able to help us with this.
If you are U.S.-based and prefer to give a tax-deductible donation without any programs included, please visit our Donation page to find out how you can do this through our fiscal sponsorship.
I am excited to be hosting a free event on Thursday – join me for the return of Tea with the Abbess on the eve of the Feast of the Archangels! In my newest book The Love of Thousands, I have a whole chapter on the archangels and how they might support us in our spiritual journeys. This informal 45-minute session will include a guided meditation, an update on our upcoming programs, and time for questions.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Image © Christine Valters Paintner