Mary Mary and Martha

Housework as contemplation. Housekeeping as service.

I think this could be said of and work, especially physical work, but I want to dwell on housekeeping because that is my thing at the moment.

Oro et Laboro

Recently at the Anchoress I read: “If you leave off the radio/stereo/television/phone, housework is contemplative work; it allows you to think about things, argue in your head and give your gut a good hearing. I need that.”

I think we all need that from time to time. There is something about doing physical labor that frees the mind for contemplation. When our hands are engaged and our mind is not we enter into a state of active thoughtfulness. I am sure there is a biological component at work. The body moving encouraging deeper breathing, moving the limbs, stimulating the heart and the blood flow – certainly it all leads to a more active mental state. But when the mind in not engaged in the work itself then we can think of other things more deeply and more clearly.

To often when I am in this state I allow my mind to wonder into self-critical and unpleasant things. This isn’t conducive to doing housework in a pleasant way. This is an area where I need to work.

A spirit of service takes a mundane task and elevates it to something noble. A labor of love most often means doing something because you love it, but it can also mean doing something because you love the one you are working for.

Housekeeping becomes a service when you keep in mind that you are working for your family. A pleasant home to come to at the end of the day for your husband. An appealing place to play and learn for your children. Somewhere that guests are welcome. Where you can relax and not worry that your part of the world is in disarray. A well ordered home becomes more naturally a place of prayer.