Yesterday was Sunday. Church was wonderful, but then I always think church is wonderful. I guess that is why I have spent my entire life there. These days, I spend a good bit of time writing, teaching, and thinking about why everyone else isn’t spending time in church. I have lots of theories, but, last week, I read a quote by the famed French writer Blaise Pascal that gave me a new one. Although he wrote it in a sexist way, I think it contains a truth that may apply to both genders: “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact: that they are unable to stay quietly in their own room.”
Given the busyness, endless noise, and constant stimulation with which we are surrounded and by which we are bombarded, I wonder if the very idea of church isn’t intimidating, foreign, and a little frightening to the modern soul. Is it too much to ask to take an hour each week to quiet our minds and reach out with another part of our being? Is it secretly terrifying to be in the presence of the Other and risk that something might happen that we can’t control?
Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote:
Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.
Perhaps that is why we avoid too much direct contact with the Sacred, too much church, too much prayer, too much worship, too much God.
The division between “self” and “soul” is an artificial one, but I wonder if we all might not do better if we deliberately tried to nourish our souls a bit more and neglected our “self” just a bit. What might the world be like if we invested a bit more in our souls, as if the soul is the sacred part of us that might be around long after all this “stuff,” even our bodies, is gone?
Rev. Michael Piazza