Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
Tending the Fire Within
Tending the Fire Within

Practicing Sabbath

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

For many practicing Jews and Christians, Sabbath rest is an essential practice to “tend the fire within.” Biblical scholar Renita J. Weems recalls the Sabbath of her childhood

Once upon a time Sunday was a special day, a holy day, a day different from the other six days of the week…. This was a time when [Black] people like those I grew up with still believed that it was enough to spend six days a week trying to eke out a living, … fretting over the future, despairing over whether life would ever get better for [us]. Six days of worrying were enough. The Sabbath was the Lord’s Day, a momentary cease-fire in our ongoing struggle to survive and an opportunity to surrender ourselves to the rest only God offered. Come Sunday, we set aside our worries about the mundane and renewed our love affair with eternity….  

Our working-class hearts were ultimately fixed on one thing alone. Sunday held out to us the promise that we might enter our tiny rough-hewn sanctuary and find sanctity and blessing from a week of loss and indignities. Remembering the Sabbath where I grew up involved delighting oneself for a full twenty-four hours, ultimately in good company, with fine clothes and choice meals. The Sabbath allowed us to mend our tattered lives and restore dignity to our souls. We rested by removing ourselves from the mundane sphere of secular toil and giving ourselves over fully to the divine dimension, where in God’s presence one found “rest” (paradoxically) not in stillness and in repose but in more labor—a different kind of labor, however. We sang, waved, cried, shouted, and when we felt led to do so, danced as a way of restoring dignity to our bodies as well. We used our bodies to help celebrate God’s gift of the Sabbath. For the Sabbath meant more than withdrawal from labor and activity. It meant to consciously enter into a realm of tranquility and praise.  

After a week of the body toiling away in inane work and the spirit being assaulted with insult and loss, Sunday was set aside to recultivate the soul’s appreciation for beauty, truth, love, and eternity. 

Weems acknowledges that Sabbath is difficult to maintain, but can be a healing balm if practiced: 

The Lord’s Day allows us to bring our souls, our emotions, our senses, our vision, and even our bodies back to God so that God might remember our tattered, broken selves and put our priorities back in order. The Sabbath makes sure we have the time to do what’s really important and be with those we really care about.  

I miss the Sabbath of my childhood. I miss believing in the holiness of time. I miss believing there was a day when time stood still. There’s virtually little in this culture, and hardly anything in my adult comings and goings, to serve as a timely reminder of how precious time really is, to remind me of sacred moments. 

Renita J. Weems, Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey through Silence and Doubt (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999), 76, 77, 78, 82. 

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled (detail), Washington, 2020, photo, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. Within our deep and tender inside spaces there is a bright light to tend and care for.

Story from Our Community:  

Recently I was moved by words from Ilia Delio: “I let go over and over again and jump into the lap of God’s loving embrace.” It reminded me of a photo I found in my mother’s things after she died last year. In the photo, I’m leaping into my mother’s arms in a swimming pool. I’m so grateful that in the early days, I learned how to trust my mother’s safe embrace. That faith has prepared me to trust God in all things as I live a new stage of life today. —Linda B. 

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.