Monday, May 26, 2008

Pantry Psalmody

I did not know that Gerald Manley Hopkins, poet and Jesuit priest, had written part of a commentary on St Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises. A bit of it is quoted in Kathleen Norris's The Quotidian Mysteries (which Susan recommended)

It is not only prayer that gives God glory, but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, white-washing a wall, driving horses, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in His grace you do it as your duty. To go to a communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives Him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give Him glory, too. God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should.
So -- I've been trying to do household tasks in this spirit.

Kathleen Norris wrote about the quotidian duties that sometimes overwhelm and discourage us by their very daily-ness, but that imply commitment and trust:

...It might help to regard the gifts of our hearts as being like the manna God sent each day to the Israelites in their journey through a forbidding wilderness. God has made us so that abundant grace can flow from us in response to great need, but in order to fulfill its God-given purpose, such grace must be received and used up, as it is of the present moment and will not keep even overnight. But acedia seeks to hoard against the time when God is no longer present.... It rejects the present moment..

Our culture's ideal self, especially the accomplished, professional self, rises above necessity, the humble, everyday, ordinary tasks that are best lefft to unskilled labor. The comfortable lies we tell ourselves regarding these "little things" -- that they don't matter, and that daily personal and houseehold chores are of no significance to us spiritually -- are exposed as falsehoods when we consider that reluctance to care for the body is one of the first symptoms of extreme melancholia. ...

At its Greek root the word acedia means "lack of care".... care is not passive -- the word derives from an Indo-European word meaning "to cry out," as in a lament. Care asserrts that as difficult and painful as life can be, it is worth something to be in the present, alive, doing one's daily bit. It addresses and acts on the daily needs that acedia would have us suppress and deny.
Something that I have been pondering recently as I scrub the grout in the pantry floor and sort through dusty piles of books and papers! It does not come easily to me.


Anonymous said...

This is something that has never really become true for me in my heart even though intellectually I know it. I need to really feel that doing this work that I hate and I find so full of drudgery and so thankless really truly is something that can give glory to God.

I am gearing up for a big housecleaning/organizational time in June and I really need this lesson to blossom in my heart.

Thank you!



lissla lissar said...

I just finished that books yesterday. Bless Kathleen Norris.

Another quote:

Is it not a good joke that when God gave us work to do as punishment for our disobedience in Eden, it was work that can never be finished, but only repeated, day in and day out, season upon season, year after year?I see here not only God's keen sense of humor, but also a creative and zestful love. It is precisely these thankless, boring, repetitive tasks that are hardest for the workaholic or utilitarian mind to appreciate, and God knows that being rendered temporarily mindless as we toil is what allows us to approach the temple of holy leaisure....

I really like her emphasis on our unwillingness to perform repetitive tasks being both acedia and a form of gnosticism- the real world doesn't matter! I'm better than that. It reminds me of Eric Brende's experiments with 'honest Toil' in Better Off.

I'm almost finished Real Learning, as well. Thank you. I think I'm starting to get a feel for how one begins homeschooling. Sort of. :)

Susan L said...

I loved reading this. I don't get tired of the Kathleen Norris passages no matter how many times I read them! The progress you are making in your home is inspiring, Willa.

Lissla Lissar, I really liked Eric Brende's book. I was just reading parts of it the other day.


Beate said...

I just put the Kathleen Norris book on hold - but wanted to say: What an absolutely gorgeous kitchen!!!!"

Willa said...

I liked Eric Brende's book too -- read it on Lissla's recommendation in fact.

Beate, thanks for the compliment on the kitchen!

Chari said...

WOW, I SO needed to read this right now.......I am really stuggling, with the daily stuff......and everything needing to get done. Thanks for the reminder. Do you now own this book and can lend it to me? :) Or, do I need to borrow it from the library (which they probably will not have)? :)

Hey, the kitchen looks great! Are you keeping your mixer there now?

Beate....nice to SEE has been awhile!