"The Jews think that the sabbath is given to them for idleness. This is not the purpose, but in order that they may remove themselves from worldly cares and devote all their leisure to spiritual concerns. It is evident from the facts that the sabbath is not a subject for idleness but for spiritual work." --St. John Chrysostom, first sermon on Lazarus and the rich man
I've always felt a bit puzzled by and even resistant to the idea of keeping the Sabbath. I have a vague notion that I shouldn't do much work, but that usually results in looking at the huge pile of dirty dishes on the kitchen counter and thinking 'I really should just let those go until tomorrow', but then going ahead and doing the dishes anyway, feeling slightly guilty but also justified. Crusty dishes were everywhere! How could I rest when I knew there were crusty dishes everywhere?!
Well, I've come across one of those "aha!" concepts in a sermon by St. john Chrysostom that is finally clearing things up on the issue of keeping the Sabbath. St. John explains the Sabbath as a day to do spiritual work. It is not a day set aside for idleness, but a day to accomplish spiritual things.
Thus far my idea of keeping the Sabbath has been pretty limited to going to Mass and then trying to spend the rest of the day on things that are relaxing. I'm realizing that while it is good for my soul to relax on Sundays, I'm missing the point if that is my main goal for the day. While it's not possible with two young kids to care for to set aside big chunks of time for spiritual reflection, I still think I could make the rhythm of Sunday more geared towards ' spiritual work' by making sure I do set aside some time outside of Mass. I feel more inclined to let the housework go knowing there's a good reason not to do the dishes. It's not that it's wrong to wash dishes on Sunday because I'm supposed to be relaxing, it's just that doing so might eliminate the only time I have during the day to spend pursuing God. (Now, if this doesn't convince my husband that we need a dishwasher, the kind with a motor in it, what will?)