hey the family is coming...

There is a unique charism to cleaning the bathroom, scrubbing the floor and making the house
look hospitable. This is not a unique insight, of course, as everyone from St. Benedict and Brother Lawrence to Kathleen Norris and Anne Lamott have weighed in on the subject.

The Bible is full of evidence that God's attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a great cosmic cop, eager to catch us in minor transgressions, but simply because God loves us--loves us so much that the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life. It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is "renewed in the morning" or to put it in more personal and also theological terms, "our inner nature is being renewed everyday". Seen in this light, what strikes many modern readers as the ludicrous details in Leviticus involving God in the minutiae of daily life might be revisioned as the very love of God.  (Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work)

For nearly two hours, we have been engaged in the common drudgery of vacuuming dog hair (waaay too freakin' much!), dusting, scouring toilet bowls and waxing the floor in anticipation of our children and grandson. For some odd reason, I have always found satisfaction in such work. Yes, it can be oppressive - especially if you are the only one doing it - and often there can be too much of it. But like good liturgy, there is something calming about making a sink shine. Or adding a fresh coat of wax to a once grimy hardwood floor. 

I feel much the same way about setting a beautiful table with flowers, crisp linen, candles and all the rest. Norris writes that St. Benedict was clear that:  Whatever you do repeatedly has the power to shape you, has the power to make you over into a different person— even if you’re not totally engaged’ in every minute! I find that my mind wanders while washing the floor: I think of ideas for an ordination sermon I've been asked to preach in early June - or find old wounds and resentments rising to the surface of consciousness - or even memories of those long gone from this world wafting through my mind as they remind me how to do "women's work" and why it matters.

Well, now there is a dog to wash, more floors to finish and groceries to be gathered before the troops arrive in a few hours. I like the way Ms. Norris wraps it all up:

When it comes to the nitty—gritty, what ties these threads of biblical narrative together into a revelation of God’s love is that God has commanded us to refrain from grumbling about the dailiness of life. Instead we are meant to accept it gratefully, as a reality that humbles us even as it gives us cause for praise. The rhythm of sunrise and sunset marks a passage of time that makes each day rich with the possibility of salvation, a concept that is beautifully summed up in an ancient saying from the monastic tradition: “Abba Poeman said concerning Abba Pior that every day he made a new beginning.” 


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