Over a pot of steaming English Breakfast tea one morning, a Jewish friend and I talked about how she prepares for and observes the Sabbath Day. Since Biblical times, Jews have kept a Day of Preparation to get ready for the Sabbath Day. Clearly, it takes planning to prepare for that one day each week to be work free and extra special – different from all the other days. For my friend, preparation activities are enjoyable because they build anticipation for what is to come.
This calls to mind other things in daily life that call for preparations ahead of time in anticipation of a future good. Grocery shopping, picking from your garden, then preparing the food for meals. Fresh sheets on the beds and dust bunnies chased out of the rooms before guests arrive. Compost added to soil and mulch replenished, weeds dug out and gardening tools sharpened in hopes of a productive garden or lovely yard. Air conditioning system checked before summer heat descends. On and on…. add your list.
“Be prepared” is the Girl Scout motto. (Yes, I was both a Brownie and a Girl Scout.) Being prepared means being both willing and able to do something. Despite willingness and abilities to accomplish goals, sometimes the wheels just fall off. Know what I mean? If you’ve got AD/HD, you have difficulty making decisions, creating plans, prioritizing, and sidelining distractions that would send you off in multiple other directions. Then there is the experience of, “life is what happens when you’ve made other plans.” Stuff just happens that changes your best laid plans and preparations. In that case, being prepared calls for willingness to be flexible, to persevere, and to trust.
St. Benedict created a “school for the Lord’s service” to help monks make the necessary daily preparations to live happily in this life and to prepare for eternal life with God. This school provides tools for living a peaceful and holy life while living among a diversity of personalities. That there are 73 chapters in the Rule should hint that he was guiding fallible human beings not celestial angels. He encourages us not to run away when we experience challenges and failures because eventually, we will run that path with joy.
The joyful disciplines of my Jewish friend for her Day of Preparation edified me to do what I can to keep holy my weekly Sabbath. I also see my Benedictine life as a wider sort of Day of Preparation. St. Benedict provided a structure to help me say “yes” to somethings and “no” to others, as do the Jewish Days of Preparation and the Sabbath. Following Benedict’s Rule prepares a heart with both the willingness and the ability to run toward that Light that leads to our heavenly home with joyful anticipation.
By Sister Sara Aiden Burress, OSB