4a. Sabbath: Time of Contemplation

What is it about the Sabbath that helps us understand and value and benefit from meditation?  Spending a little time going back to our Jewish roots should bring us some useful insights.

Sabbath time strengthens in us the image of God!

As we go through the six days of creation, we find that each one brings a higher level of creation. On the 6th day, God chooses to make man and woman in his own image. On the 7th day, we would expect God to continue this sequence and produce something higher.

Instead nothing! (Or so it may appear!!!)

Problem! "If God rested on the 7th day, how could he have finished on the very same day ? If he did nothing on the Sabbath, then obviously he finished on the 6th day!

Answer! (Midrash) "On the Sabbath, God created Rest."

Note: And did so jointly with the man and woman!

So keeping Sabbath together strengthens and renews our birthright, our unique relationship with the Creator.

Sabbath was given as evening approached on our day of creation to be our gift forever, as a permanent reminder of our birthright and resist the temptation to succumb to any lesser image! (Tilden Edwards)

The more genuinely we seek to resemble God's image the more we enjoy God's serenity, tranquility and peace. God dwells in eternity, but God has created a way for us to share in his eternity while we dwell in time.

Sabbath is related to the word "shabbos" to dwell.

In Sabbath time God makes the world our world his dwelling place.

There (in that time) we share the same rest, the same breath, the same peace.

Those who enter into his Sabbath Rest, enjoy his attributes. Serenity and tranquility are his special gifts. They are not created; they are shared.

You see God, who dwells beyond time and change, created Sabbath in the company of man and woman and gave it as their eternal gift so that when they share that time with him, they too share in his uncreated attributes especially his serenity and tranquility.

It is this which leads us to then be at peace within our selves and the whole of creation, and thus share these great gifts.

When we partake of Sabbath Peace, we receive spiritual energy from "hidden springs" to pay undivided attention to God's Holy Word Torah! Thus we can, as Jesus demanded: (Matt 13: 23)

Hear—> Understand—> Produce (that is, go on to obey and perform good works and share God's gifts with all creation)

The understanding God imparts through the Holy Spirit enables us to take the right action and be effective in what we do.

As we cultivate inner hearing and inner seeing through entering into Sabbath rest with God, so we hear and see more clearly the plight of the neglected, and can respond appropriately.

This is beautifully expressed by a great Christian Contemplative who wrote:

"This age (which by its very nature is a time of crisis, of revolution, and struggle) calls for a special searching and questioning which is the work of the Christian in silence, in mediation, and in prayer. Those who pray, search not only their own hearts, but plunge deep into the heart of the whole world in order to listen more intently to the deepest and most neglected voices that proceed from its inner depths."

From Thomas Merton
(From an old unpublished paper)

Those who say meditation is passive and turning from the real needs of people, have never learnt to listen, let alone to obey! They may quote the Bible endlessly but their words are a false front to cover their obvious lack of true knowledge of what they spout forth. Sadly they are often closed to the fullness of Biblical truth and remained imprisoned in their self-imposed dogmatic mind set.  We have spoken critically of such prejudice because of the way the above attitude misleads people so seriously.

Conclusion

These few notes include contributions from Jewish sources. A notable teacher of prayer in the 20th century, Rabbi Areyh Kaplan reminded us that in Exodus 31: 17, God calls Sabbath an "eternal sign" i.e. a sign of eternity, and wrote:

"In Sabbath experience we see a 'spark of the eternal'. We feel a "breeze blowing from the future world" when all will be Sabbath."

("Sabbath: Day of Eternity" by Areyh Kaplan.)

If we choose we can experience that. We can enter into spiritual rest with God. We can 'catch', that is to say renew our life-giving breath with Him who seeks to share the breath of His Life with us. For Jesus says to us:

"Come to me and I will give you rest"

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