I spent the past several days attending a conference where I sat at a table listening, thinking, talking, and praying. The table held my papers, my elbows, and occasionally my gaze. It also held the holy conversation – heavy with the weightless fragrance of hope – that flowed across and around the table, and that flowed amongst other tables in a room filled with monastic women gathered to listen, think, talk, and pray.
Today, back at work at my desk, an employee came to tell me she needed help. She had been assigned to move tables, but they were too heavy for her alone. I got up to help her.
We moved tables, one by one, the two of us. They were too heavy for one alone. Working together they seemed lighter than air.
Lifting and moving the tables, I knew that the work of sitting at yesterday’s table was meaningless without the work of these tables. I can think and talk and pray about monastic life for days on end, but unless I rise from my chair for the work of community, the talk is lifeless. And moving tables without the holy intention that lifts them beyond themselves is mere motion.
The manual labor of moving tables and the spiritual labor of being at table each breathe life into the other. Each makes of the other a sign. And each makes the other seem lighter than air, heavy with the weightless fragrance of possibility.