By Holly Gustafson
“This is what my Sundays have been missing.”
That was my thought as I was lying in bed last Sunday. My book lay beside me – I’d given up trying to keep my eyes open – and the curtains above my head were moving gently in the breeze. I was actually – finally, and for the first time in a long time – at rest.
It’s certainly not the first time I’ve lain down in the middle of a Sunday afternoon and taken a nap or at least tried to rest. I’m well aware of the third commandment – remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy – and I have tried to make the Lord’s Day feel special and set apart from the rest of the week. But, for the most part, I haven’t totally succeeded, until last Sunday.
Certainly, living in a pandemic didn’t make honouring the Sabbath day particularly easy: without our weekday routine of school and activities, and the physical act of leaving our house to go to Mass, each day seemed to run into the next in an endless cycle with no real definition or break. Who even knew what day it was, anyway?
But to be honest, our efforts to honour the Sabbath day, even pre-pandemic, were falling a little flat. Our weekends were so busy, full of dance classes, birthday parties and out-of-town tournaments, that we struggled to find time just to receive the Eucharist. And although, in all the busyness, our family never once missed Sunday Mass, more often than not, we were barely squeezing it in to a jam-packed schedule, arriving at church at the last possible minute, and leaving as soon as we could to get to the next activity. Without realizing it, we had begun to treat the Eucharist as just another thing to get done in an already busy day. Sunday never felt truly honoured, and it sure never felt restful.
It was during this phase of busyness and lack of true rest that I requested from the library a book called 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, and, several weeks ago, when the libraries opened up again, the book finally came in. In it, author Tiffany Schlain, who is Jewish, describes her habit of taking what she calls a “Tech Shabbat”; for one day a week (for her, it’s Saturday), she and her family officially “unplug”, turning off their screens, and use the time to rest, recover, and reconnect as a family.
So I decided to try it last Sunday, observing my own Tech Sabbath. No checking my phone first thing in the morning, no scrolling through social media, no reading the same news that was there yesterday and will be there tomorrow, no online shopping, no emails, no shows.
And it was exactly what my Sundays had been missing.
I finally understood what St. Augustine was saying when he wrote in his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
I had needed to do something radically different to find rest on Sunday. I needed to make space, and not an hour squeezed in to my weekend schedule to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist; I needed to make a place in my restless soul where I could be free from the distractions of the world (and for me, those distractions find me so readily through my phone), and able to make room for the Eucharistic day.
“Is there any place within me into which my God might come? Is there any room in me for you, Lord, my God?” These are the soul-searching questions that St. Augustine grapples with in his Confessions, and which I, too, feel compelled to ask and answer. I, too, wonder if there’s any room for God here, in this fretting and inattentive soul; I, too, feel, like Augustine, “cramped in this dwelling of my soul.” “Expand it,” says Augustine, “that You may enter in. It is in ruins; restore it.”
When I made a little space in my cramped soul for the Lord on his day, he had room to enter in, and expand it even more. And I finally found some rest.
EUCHARISTIC CHALLENGE OF THE MONTH
Join me in a 12-month challenge to grow closer to the Eucharist this year. This month, do something radical to make more space for God on Sundays.
Holly Gustafson lives with her husband, James, and their five children, in Regina, where they attend Christ the King Parish. Holly received her Masters in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba, and now pursues her love of language through art, writing, public speaking, and unsolicited grammatical advice. The best advice she ever received was from her spiritual friend, St. Faustina, who told her that when in doubt, "Always ask Love. It advises best."
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