The True Leisure of Divine Worship

4 May

  Perhaps some of you have seen the bumper sticker that reads, “The Labor Movement- The People Who Brought You the Weekend.” The point being that we have the Labor Movement of the late 19th century to thank when we take it easy on Saturday morning, sipping coffee in our pajamas while we watch cartoons, not worrying about what the boss would say. As great as this sounds, it is still tied to labor. The weekend is merely a break from work for the sake of returning to work refreshed. On Sunday, we devote our time to divine worship, which is pure leisure.

weekends and the sabbath - Ian Skemp

   Personal opinions on the labor movement notwithstanding, the bumper sticker has a point. If we adhere to the concept of the modern weekend, then perhaps we can thank the labor movement for the weekly break from work (as well as the shorter hours Monday through Friday). Once a week, we are allowed to rest, thus recharging our batteries for the inevitable return to work on Monday. I am, in fact, exceedingly grateful for that. Labor strains the mind and the body, and rest is much needed. As much as I enjoy a day off, however, I am far more thankful for the leisure of the Lord’s Day, which predates the Labor Movement by several millennia, at least.

   Sunday is not merely day off.  We, as human beings, are made for more than merely “working” and “not working.” We are not utilitarian beings made for practical ends, nor are we pointless creatures who work only to minimize the coldness, brutishness, and nastiness of our short lives. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and thus we are called to a higher plane. But what about the Lord’s Day sets it apart from any other day we don’t clock in? What is true leisure?

   Leisure is not simply laziness or inactivity. Celebrating Mass on Sunday reminds us that human totality extends beyond the world of work. Divine worship is not work, yet it is not idleness, either. Josef Pieper, a philosopher, wrote that leisure “lifts man out of himself, so that he is rapt to the heavens.” The weekend is a necessary interruption of our work, but mundane in and of itself. To freely engage in divine worship is to break on through the confines of the workaday world and all its practical needs, choosing instead to bask in the Good. It is, to put it simply, heavenly.

– Ian Skemp

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