July 2019. It was a wonderful week in the high desert of Ghost Ranch. We were a group of eight from the four winds— small in number but mighty in spirit. We feasted on the land’s quietude and soaked up the peace of wild things. We sat in the sweet company of soul-hungry pilgrims. Each person, from east to west coast, chose to peel back the layers of busyness for a week of simplicity and renewal. We were given our daily bread, had no errands or appointments, braised in copious amounts of wandering time and walked among the desert beings. We swam through our days, leisurely-like. We were truly human “beings”. And we were given our soul’s manna in the desert.
Christine Valters Paintner writes in her book Soul’s Slow Ripening (Notre Dame, Indiana: Sorin Books, 2018):
…in this space of transition and threshold is a sacred dimension, a holy pause full of possibility…statio calls us to a sense of reverence for slowness, mindfulness and the fertile dark spaces between our goals where we can pause and center ourselves and listen. …these in-between times are not wasted moments or inconveniences but opportunities to return again and again, to awaken to the gifts right here….”(9)
Sabbath is threshold time. The Celts called it “thin time”. It is a space and place where the veil between worlds is either ripped away or billows out before us as a gauzy, shimmering invitation. She asks us to step deeper into the mysteries of our inner landscape…into the landscapes around us that we usually do not notice. It is a time for rest, prayer, worship, art, song, music, sex, silence, loved ones, and food. Nature is a wonderful Sabbath companion. As John O’Donahue put it:
“Love does not remain within the heart, it flows out to build secret tabernacles in the landscape” ( The Soul’s Slow Ripening, p.xi). Together, we built many tabernacles in the desert. And the journey was the elixir of life! We basked in the honey of joy and healing.
Tending to our soul’s rhythm, and ceasing our work, is actually a pleasure not a chore. Though in our crazy, busy world, we become so crusty with the junk of the day and our excess outwardness that we tend to think of stopping for 24 hours as painful. Unplugging can bring up a million excuses as to why we cannot. And it can be painful at first to stop the barrage around us and listen to that “still small voice” inside. Sometimes it’s stuff we’d rather not hear. It may call us to a new way of being, a discernment, a change for a new season of life, facing “how it is” rather than continuing to live in our cultural and personal illusions.
Sabbath will gently take off the mask that we wear, and tell us that neither we nor our work are indispensable.
Our task is to stop. Remember the One who gave us work and actually, everything else that we have in this created world. To give thanks.
And so, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said in his classic watershed book on Sabbath:
We build a temple in time and take refuge there. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal…to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation: from the world of creation to the creation of the world (Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy( Boulder, CO: Sounds True)38.
Blessed be. O sublime happiness, we had not one, but six days of Sabbath together!