Thursday, September 14, 2006

Work is Love Made Visible

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feed but half man's hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man's ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.
--from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (as quoted in The Pace of a Hen)

“Work is love made visible.” And it truly takes the love to make the work good. It may be love of God outflowing in service to others—nursing the sick or building cathedrals. It may be love of people—husband, children, mother, friends, so that clothes are made, houses swept, books written, motivated by warm human love.

It may be love of the beautiful that produces the long hours of work required to write a poem, carve a statue, or keep minute bouquets of flowers freshly arranged. The best work is probably that prompted by all sources of love.

My favorite example of love deliberately made manifest is the Mother Currier quilt story. Each year as Christmas drew near, her sacramental offering to the Christchild, and the crowning gift of all her many kindnesses of the year, was a quilt, hand-pieced for some baby who otherwise might lack sufficient warm covering. That is not strange, you say, many good hearted women have taken many stitches to cover the naked. The phrase, love in every stitch, is a common place one. But Mother Currier was able to plumb an even deeper level, for her discipline was—a loving thought back of every stitich. If any least thought of irritation, or resentment, or ill will in any relationship slipped into her heart, she laid aside her handiwork, until she was calm and serene and loving. No sounding brass or tinkling cymbal was sewed into her stitches to mar a baby’s sleep. Who can guess how much more was done unto the least of these, because of the wholeness of her gift. (from The Pace of a Hen, Josephine Moffett Benton, 1961)

The quilt story always reminds me of the time I watched a demonstration of icon "writing" (we think of it as painting). The writer explained that the whole process is begun and sustained in prayer, and if she was unable to stay focused in prayer as she painted, she would lay down her brush. I looked online just now, and found this beautiful prayer before starting work on an icon. I also found these interesting notes here:

  • it is said that icons are not painted, they are written

  • the writer ‘prepares himself’ before starting to work, with going within and staying within, fasting, prayer and with the way he lives his life

  • icons are windows, gates and mirrors to ourselves showing us 'something' of who and what we are

  • icons communicate an unseen divine reality, beyond logic and thinking

  • icons form a part of Liturgy, which means ‘the work of the people’

  • icons are venerated for what they represent, not as objects as such

  • an icon is an embodiment of prayer; it is made with prayer and for prayer

  • painting icons is also called Work

  • Lord, may my Work of writing on human hearts be performed with love and supported by prayer. Forgive me when I bake bread with indifference...when I crush grapes grudgingly. May my daily work be love made manifest.

    2 comments:

    Jennifer said...

    wow hen, (gosh just realized I don't know your name...maybe it is here somewhere on your blog!)
    anyways hen friend, your post leads me to give myself to prayer more over my little ones, the work I do for them- and the living epistles I am writing on their hearts. Your posts are so thoughtful, thanks again for sharing.
    Jenny in Ca (homeiswhereyoustartfrom)

    Islandsparrow said...

    "May my daily work be love made manifest."

    I am praying that along with you - thanks.