The God of rest

Cebu Daily News - - OPINION - Fr.an­cis@myre­al­box.com

In a tour through Egyp­tian ar­ti­facts in the Vatican mu­se­ums, my com­pan­ion was amused with the nu­mer­ous stat­ues of Egyp­tian gods. “We’re lucky not hav­ing to mem­o­rize so many gods,” he quipped. “In­deed, but I be­lieve there are more Hindu gods?” Then he pointed to one statue rep­re­sent­ing some god or god­dess. It was por­trayed in a sleep­ing po­si­tion. There was no iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tag to ex­plain what it was.

My com­pan­ion said, “This is pretty easy to iden­tify: the sleep­ing god or god­dess!”

A lit­tle later, I re­mem­bered his com­ment and re­al­ized that our God was also a sleep­ing God, or bet­ter said, one who rested on the sev­enth day af­ter hav­ing cre­ated ev­ery­thing in the world. Al­though God does not need to rest phys­i­cally be­cause he is a spirit, Scrip­ture wants us to learn how im­por­tant rest is.

To­day, there is a need to re­cover the orig­i­nal mean­ing of rest found in the im­age of a “rest­ing God.” God’s rest­ing teaches a deeper mean­ing of be­ing at rest: it is a con­tem­pla­tive stance so that one can ad­mire the ac­tiv­i­ties we do.

Af­ter ev­ery day of cre­ation, the au­thor of Gen­e­sis re­peats: “God saw that all he had cre­ated and saw that it was good.” God does not only work in a me­chan­i­cal way, but like an artist ap­pre­ci­ates his cre­ation and is pleased with it.

This is where the con­tem­pla­tive idea of rest can be de­rived. It is noth­ing of the me­chan­i­cal and rou­tine mode of ac­tivism that we of­ten fall into to­day. Man has be­come a slave to work. He has re­duced work to an end rather than a means to be able to con­tem­plate an ac­tiv­ity he shares with God.

Like­wise, man’s en­slave­ment to work and its ma­te­rial ben­e­fits has also im­pov­er­ished the con­tem­pla­tive per­spec­tive of rest. Rest has been to­tally dis­lo­cated from work, and is now con­ceived as an es­cape from the bur­dens and stress of work.

As a con­se­quence, man finds him­self tensely torn be­tween two op­pos­ing poles: work and rest. A man finds him­self with no choice but to work in or­der to eat, and the soon­est he dis­con­nects from his toil does he drown him­self into a “rest” that does noth­ing but make work more de­testable by the sec­ond.

Thus, the im­age of God who rests on the sev­enth day is a con­stant re­minder of how man’s own phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual in­tegrity can be achieved through an au­then­tic idea of rest.

It is not the ma­te­ri­al­is­tic and in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic con­cept of rest as a static state of not-do­ing-any­thing to do only what I want away from work and oth­ers. Ac­tivism is a state that only seedbeds self­ish­ness and vices.

Gen­uine rest, how­ever, is an ac­tive dis­po­si­tion al­low­ing man to con­tem­plate re­al­i­ties that daily rou­tine would oth­er­wise make him ap­pre­ci­ate and nur­ture. It re­minds him that he is not only body, mind and heart. Above all, it tells him that he has a soul!

Rest could be de­scribed as a “Sab­bath of the soul,” as Henri Nouewen once called it. It is learn­ing how to rest in a way that we can pos­sess God more and grow in our ca­pac­ity to love and serve oth­ers even though through­out each week­day we may be tired and stressed by work and other con­cerns.

This Sab­bath for the soul, finds its sum­mit in Sun­day wor­ship. It is not only one more day of the week, but the Day of the Lord. It is where the other days ought to re­volve and en­rich them­selves in.

If only we make the ef­fort to pre­pare for this day, how many fruits will be reaped in fam­ily life, work, so­cial en­gage­ments and more be­cause our rest­ing in God al­lows God to also rest in us. And this will al­low us to live in and through ev­ery re­al­ity of our ex­is­tence in God’s pres­ence.

Man has be­come a slave to work. He has re­duced work to an end rather than a means to be able to con­tem­plate an ac­tiv­ity he shares with God.

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