Why and how to rest?

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The human spirit seeks peace in the midst of the intense motion to which it is subjected in the course of life.

Newsroom, July 24, 2021 17:59, Gaudium Press. God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. At each stage, He contemplated the work accomplished and saw that it was good. After having analyzed the whole, He classified it as great, and “rested from His work” (Gen 2:2).

“The end crowns the work,” says an old Latin saying. And “all motion tends toward rest,” says St. Thomas Aquinas.

Nature itself teaches us this law. After storms, the seas calm down, the atmosphere becomes serene, and the air purifies; on these occasions, it is extremely pleasant to raise our eyes to Heaven and contemplate God, His infinite goodness and mercy.

The four seasons also tell us something along these lines, for the rigors of winter are succeeded by the colors, perfumes and freshness of spring, and the heat of summer is tempered by the slow and increasing coolness of autumn.

Law of repose

So too the human organism, in its normal equilibrium, requires a certain number of hours of sleep each night. It is inherent to man, conceived in sin, to suffer fatigue; the animal side of our nature is easily fatigued.

After our daily chores, whether work or study, when night comes we have a vital need for rest, all the more so if we wake up early.

And perhaps this is one of the reasons why God wanted to make the Earth revolve around its own axis during the twenty-four hours of the day.

Yes, God instituted the law of rest in the order of created beings; and He tries to accustom men, during the state of trial in this earthly existence, to recollection with a view to eternal life.

At first glance, rest might seem to be an image of stagnant, unfruitful, deteriorating inaction. But it is here that man finds the best of his energies and his efficient work.

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, free from original sin and any other stain, wanted to take on certain deficiencies of human nature and wearied Himself, as in the episode where we find Him sleeping in Peter’s boat, in the middle of the storm, and reproached the Apostles for not having enough faith when they woke Him up (Mt 8:23-26).

To the disciples themselves, Our Lord advised rest after great activities. “When the Apostles had returned to Jesus, … He said to them, ‘Come aside to a solitary place and rest a while'” (Mk 6:30-31). Let us learn to rest with Jesus.

Action and recollection

A certain concept of rest in our days leads people to mistakenly believe that it consists of complete physical and spiritual relaxation.

Although the Apostles were overcome by fatigue, Jesus had them climb the mountain, because it was necessary for them to contemplate the panorama of activities already accomplished and of those still to come.

Sitting at the top of this viewpoint, their eyes revealed a beautiful geographical horizon. It is indispensable to work in God as well as to rest in God.

Our life in society – especially when apostolic – must be conducted in a mixture of action and recollection. It is in prayer that the man of faith recovers his energies and acquires new strength for bolder undertakings.

That is why St. John Chrysostom states that Jesus went up the mountain “also to teach us to rest at all times from tumult and noise, for indeed solitude is convenient for meditation. He often goes up the mountain alone and spends the night there praying, indicating to us that those who draw near to God need to get away from the noise and seek time and place away from the bustle.”

Text extracted, with adaptations, from the magazine Heralds of the Gospel, August 2003.

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