Finding divinity in the drudgery of isolation

With all the church closings, the quarantines and perhaps a little more time stuck in the house than we’d like, it can be easy to lose touch with our spiritual center.

I admit, I suffered no shortage of dismay when the church doors closed. But, this is a good time to reflect on how we maintain our spiritual household at home — to focus on our discipline of prayer, meditation and reading of Scripture. And, it’s a good time to train ourselves to find the divine in all our small acts — even, perhaps especially, in our mundane daily chores.

Reflecting on this, I was drawn back to a sermon I wrote last year on George Herbert, a 17th century Anglican priest.

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Herbert was born to a wealthy family, and lived his early adulthood in a position of power and privilege in the Royal Court. But, in shifting political sands, he found himself poor and outcast from the lifestyle to which he was accustomed.

Rather than feel dejected, Herbert took this as a sign he should answer a call he’d heard earlier in life, and took up ordination as a priest in a small, humble parish. He devoted his days to carrying the Sacraments to sick parishioners, food and clothing to the poor.

Herbert also was — and still is — a renowned poet. And, in his writings, we see a tremendous capacity to find and worship God amidst the tedium of daily tasks.

From his 1633 work “The Elixir” — “Teach me, my God and King, In all things Thee to see, And what I do in anything To do it as for Thee … A servant with this clause Makes drudgery divine: Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws, Makes that and th’ action fine. This is the famous stone That turneth all to gold; For that which God doth touch and own Cannot for less be told.”

How do we find the immense blessings of Christ in the sometimes mundane, grey, grim and painful aspects of this life? We find those blessings by allowing Christ to infuse our every act, as Herbert allowed Christ to infuse his words. To use Herbert’s imagery, this focus on Christ turns the humble act of sweeping a room into a holy devotion. It makes “drudgery divine” and turns the grimmest stone to gold.

Almost three centuries before the founding of Opus Dei (Work of God), Herbert expressed in poetry these words from Opus Dei founder St. Josemaría Escrivá: “Great holiness consists in carrying out the little duties of each moment.” To take it further, Escrivá tells us: “Do everything for love. That way there are no little things. Everything is big.”

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Life becomes immeasurably bigger when we stop feeling confined by the tasks of this world, and instead sanctify those tasks on the path of love — the path that finds divinity in drudgery, great holiness in the little duties of each moment.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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