Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In Other Words...

"No distinction was made between the sacred and the everyday...their life was all one piece. It was all sacred and all ordinary."

~ Sue Bender ~
author of Plain and Simple

No matter how fulfilling our careers or our families may be, most of us can't escape what Kathleen Norris has called "women's work." Finding the sacred in the ordinary is somewhat of a preoccupation of mine. I could have had careers or part-time jobs, I could have written articles or maybe even books, I could be serving my church and my community to a much larger extent--but I'm homemaking and homeschooling six children, day in and day out, and hoping I don't regret it. I don't want to regret not making the most of these years. I don't want drudgery to rob me of the joy of each present moment.

So I surround myself with older, wiser women who show me, in the midst of the ordinary, how to open the window into the sacred. Women like Josephine Moffett Benton, the author of The Pace of a Hen. Her metaphor--actually it's Teresa of Avila's--is one I'm borrowing for this blog and for this season of my life. Women like the poet Kathleen Norris, author of The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work, The Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace and Dakota. I've shared their insights before, on Mary and Martha, Washing Dishes and Worship, a liturgy of the delicious orange, and Work As Love Made Visible.

From Gerard Manley Hopkins (as quoted by Kathleen Norris in The Quotidian Mysteries):
It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, white-washing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in His grace you do it as your duty. To go to 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.

From Josephine Moffett Benton in The Pace of a Hen:
If one feels this sacramental quality in daily living every piece of work can become a consecrated act. It is not too difficult to pray on one’s knees as a floor is scrubbed, “Wash me, O Lord, as I wash this floor, wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Awakening from sleep can be woven into a beginning prayer for the day: “As I stretch my body and limber my joints for the day’s tasks, thou O Lord, make my spirit supple and ready to accept whatever the day may bring.” Again, a prayer of thanksgiving for the first refreshing cold water of the morning: “As this water cleanses the sleep from my eyes, cleanse thou the sins of selfishness and pride and fear from my being. Pour upon me the water of life.” And then in the act of dressing: “Clothe me in the garments of righteousness.” Prayers so brief can run through all the day’s activities. They can be simple, symbolic, spontaneous, based upon the needs and acts of the day.

From Kathleen Norris in The Quotidian Mysteries:
This is incarnational reality, the sanctity of the everyday…. Laundry, liturgy and women’s work all serve to ground us in the world, and they need not grind us down. Our daily tasks, whether we perceive them as drudgery or essential, life-supporting work, do not define who we are as women or as human beings. But they have a considerable spiritual import…it is daily tasks, daily acts of love and worship that serve to remind us that religion is not strictly an intellectual pursuit.


Amaranth said...

I have just discovered your blog and have already reserved the two books you quote in this post from the library. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to "pecking" through the archives, too!

Jennifer said...

Wonderful thoughts. It makes it so much to do those things that we must do if we can see them in a different way than just drugery.

Wendy WaterBirde said...

I am enjoying so much your insights and gatherings here At a Hen's Pace! It is an area very dear to my heart as well : )

Ann V. said...

Jeanne, I have not read "The Pace of a Hen"... but what you quoted so resonated with me---I will seek that book out also! Quotidian Mysteries spoke deeply to me.

He ministers to me through you.
Ann V.