Contemplative Housework

October 9, 2007 § Leave a comment

Modern life can be very hostile to contemplation.  We are busy, the world is noisy, there is always something that must be attended too and more and more our occupations are mind-occupying far more than physically occupying.  It is bad for our health and bad for our souls.  Simple labor is often the catalyst to change things.  We are because we do. 

 I attended a Catholic women’s conference several years ago where one of the talks touched on decorating our homes in order to promote our faith.  The speaker encourage us to turn our kitchen window into a sort of holy space.  A mini-family alter where little reminders of the faith would speak to us as we went about the daily chores of cooking and cleaning.  Mary may have chosen the better part, but someone still has to do the dishes.  t is just a fact of life. 

I have often reflected on the Martha and Mary story where Martha is cleaning and Mary is listening to Christ.  Martha gets herself offend.  I can honestly see this, almost feel it.  Martha clearing the table, Martha cleaning the dishes and Mary just sitting on her touchas listening to their visitor.  I can hear the grumbling in Martha’s mind… “her I am slaving day in and day out while she sits there and doesn’t lift a finger.  Surely the Master will have something to say about this, he can’t possible see me working so hard and approve her slouth.”  I am sure Christ’s response shocked her.  But the “better part”… was it the sitting and listening or was it the listening instead of the internal grumbling?

The dishes and cleaning could have waited.  In fact in Martha’s case they should have.  They had an honored guest in their home and here she was making busy instead of listening to him.  Martha might have chosen to clean up the mess and looked at it as a service and then instead of complaining about her sister she would have been grateful for the opportunity to serve.  It is all how one looks at the work.  But in either case the grumbling attitude that lead Martha to try to entice Christ into publicly reprimanding her sister was wrong.

Attitude is at the core of so many things when it comes to faith.   If we view our religious obligations as drudgery then they become burdens.  I have heard so many people say something like “I can’t stand going to church.  Who wants to give up an hour of their weekend to have someone tell them what they do all week is wrong.”  or “My parents forced me to go to church when I was a kid and I hated it!  I won’t make my kids go to church!”  What an odd thought.  Their parents probably made them eat vegetables and go to school too, but I seriously doubt they would use the same logic universally and allow their offspring to opt out of a balanced diet or an education.   But faith somehow found itself in the “optional” category.

Or maybe it is that parents aren’t completely comfortable teaching their children the faith anymore because they don’t feel that they own it themselves well enough to pass on.  Or it could just be that in our society that seems to prize “diversity” (where diversity is defined as anything other than traditional Western Cultural and Christian faith) they don’t want to seem out of touch or un-cool.  So faith becomes something pushed to the back burner.  You don’t talk much about it and you certainly don’t bring the trappings of your faith into your home decor.  But we should!

It doesn’t take a lot.  A picture here a small statue there can be the little relics of our faith that our children see everyday.  Those things that we see everyday.  Things we connect to and remind us as we go through our daily tasks that God is with us always and we should listen to him.

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