As a young Catholic, I knew the third commandment as Remember the Lord’s Day and keep it holy. The Lord’s Day was Sunday. We went to church, often the late Mass because Mom liked the High Mass ceremony. We had Sunday dinner after church. Sometimes, after dinner we visited relatives and sometimes we took a ride through the Connecticut countryside, me hoping that we’d end up on the Roller Coaster Road, where my Dad would thrill us by driving faster than usual through the dips and turns. I never thought of Sunday as the Sabbath, although I knew that was how it was referred to biblically. During my agnostic college years, the weekend was simply the weekend, no classes and party time … except, of course, when I was home and put up a good front for Mom. Later, I would follow Judaism, at least casually, and the Lord’s Day became Shabbat, extending from sundown on Friday night to the same on Saturday. We’d occasionally light Shabbat candles and sometimes attended Friday night services, particularly when our kids were attending Hebrew school or when there were events in our lives that needed a bit of spiritual attention.
In recent years, the closest I come to a Sabbath is Saturday Morning in the Park. While I seem to be too busy to do all of what I’ve come to call my Morning Practice most mornings, on Saturdays, I try to do it all. These days, that consists of the free form journaling known as Morning Pages, a written prayer, a gratitude list and some spiritual reading. Meditation should be included but I am uniformly awful at taking the time to do it. I usually spend some time just enjoying the outdoors and watching the local fauna … be it birds, squirrels or dog-walkers … go by. I often call someone to talk, a family member I haven’t spoken to for a while or an old friend or sponsor. Sometimes later in the morning, my wife, Muri, joins me and we take a walk. The truth is, when I leave the park on Saturday morning, I am usually at peace, regardless of what’s transpired during the week.
If you search the topic Sabbath online, you’ll find many who want to convince you to celebrate the Sabbath on the day their interpretation of scripture indicates. For some reason, they want to give you ten reasons why the Sabbath isn’t Jewish as if ownership is somehow more important to God than practice. If you travel on over to Judaism 101, however, you’ll find a rather complete menu for celebrating Shabbat … without any claims of ownership. The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a very nice history of the Sabbath in different cultures that makes it clear … nobody owns the notion of a Sabbath. If you are a regular reader, you know I tend to be a spiritual pragmatist. I generally ignore the various rules and regulations regarding spiritual practices, but am perfectly willing to adopt (or adapt) something that works. Works means: makes me feel more conscious contact with the God of my understanding. And in that sense, my Saturday morning mini-Sabbath works … so I’m sticking with it.
In my internet travels, I did find a website called The Sabbath Manifesto which was created by a group of Jewish artists in search of a modern way to observe a weekly day of rest. It is non-denominational in its approach and its stated purpose is to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world. It has no prescribed day or duration for your Sabbath and offers ten principles for your own interpretation. What a concept. They are:
1. Avoid technology.
2. Connect with loved ones.
3. Nurture your health.
4. Get outside.
5. Avoid commerce.
6. Light candles.
7. Drink wine.
8 Eat bread
9. Find silence.
10. Give Back
I really like these with two reservations … wine’s not allowed in the park and I do my spiritual reading on my Kindle. Eight out of ten’s not bad for a spiritual pragmatist. What do you do for a Sabbath?