Lifting Up Our Souls

On the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God:

thou shalt do no work on it,

thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter,

nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant,

nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates.

Exodus 20:10

In his masterwork, Leisure, the Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper notes that “one of the first socialists, P. J. Proudhon,” launched his political career with “a pamphlet on the celebration of Sunday.”

“On one day in the week,” the atheist noted, “servants regained the dignity of human beings, and stood again on a level with their masters.”

For Proudhon, there was a lesson here for his fellow activists: before tackling matters of “work and wages, organization and industry,” socialists needed to develop “a theory of rest.”

As Pieper notes, Proudhon was incapable of following his own advice, since he denied the very essence of human dignity, and thus misunderstood the way in which rest affirms it.

Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, the perfection of our nature demands a regular return to the one and only source of our being.

When we deny God, rest becomes nothing but a brief respite in a world of never ending, and never fruitful, toil.

By contrast, as Tocqueville put it, the worship of God offers us a “profound rest,” consisting in a “solemn recollection,” through which the human “soul, finally, regains self-possession and contemplates itself.”

If we keep our souls to ourselves, we find that they slip through our fingers. Only when we lift them up to God can our souls be saved.

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