Last week in class we discovered more of Beauty—its character and its story—through the third line of the Lord’s Prayer:
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Pope Benedict, in his 2009 address to artists had this to say about beauty:
“Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy “shock”, it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum—it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it “reawakens” him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft.”–Pope Benedict XVI, meeting with artists, 2009
We overlayed this quote of Benedict’s with several instances recorded in the Scripture: Isaiah’s encounter of being in the Lord’s presence (Isaiah 6:1-6), the Emmaus Road story (Luke 24:13-24), Paul’s Damascus Road conversion (Acts 9:1-9). In doing so we recognized that Beauty is holy.
If beauty is holy, then the way of beauty is holiness. It is an activity, inviting our participation.
This is where the word hallowed comes from. It is the act of hallowing, or holy-ing. It is this act of hallowing we Beauty-imaged humans were created for and called to live into:
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, along with everything in them. On the seventh day God was finished with his work which he had made, so he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. God blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy; because on that day God rested form all his work which he had created so that it itself could produce.”–Genesis 2:1-3; Complete Jewish Study Bible
After six days of creating—light from dark, waters from waters, dry land, flowing rivers, palm fronds, rose hips, cicada wings, and in-his-image human beings—Beauty looked at all he had made. It was very good. On the seventh day, he was finished with his work of creating. And so he rested on the seventh day from his work. He blessed this day, just as he had blessed all the creatures of the water and winged creatures of the air on the fifth day, and his imaged humans on the sixth day. Beauty blessed the seventh day.
And he made it holy.
Twentieth century Jewish scholar, Abraham Joshua Heschel writes this of the holiness of the seventh day:
“It is, indeed, a unique occasion at which the distinguished word qadosh (holy) is used for the first time: in the Book of Genesis at the end of the story of creation. How extremely significant is the fact that it is applied to time…. There is no reference in the record of creation to any object in space that would be endowed with the quality of holiness.”–Abraham Joshua Heschel, Sabbath, p. 9
And what does a seventh day of holiness look like? What would it have been like for man and woman to live in the holiness of time? Abraham Joshua Heschel meditates on menuha in his Sabbath book:
The ancient rabbis call it menuha.“The words: ‘On the seventh day God finished His work” (Genesis 2:2) seem a puzzle. Is it not said: ‘He rested on the seventh day’? ‘In six days the Lord made heaven and earth’ (Exodus 20:11)? We would surely expect the Bible to tell us that on the sixth day God finished His work. Obviously, the ancient rabbis concluded there was an act of creation on the seventh day. Just as heaven and earth were created in six days, menuha was created on the Sabbath.”–Abraham Joshua Heschel, pp. 22-23
What is meant by menuha? Heschel explains that while the word is usually rendered as “rest”, it means much more than a withdraw from labor, more than a freedom from toil or strain. Menuha is not expressed as a negative concept, but something real and intrinsically positive. Indeed, the ancient rabbis believed without God blessing the seventh day and bestowing upon it His holy rest, the universe would have been incomplete.
“What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace and repose.”
“The hours of the seventh day are significant in themselves; their significance and beauty do not depend on any work, profit or progress we may achieve. They have the beauty of grandeur.
Beauty of Grandeur, a crown of victory, a day of rest and holiness…a rest in love and generosity, a true and genuine rest, a rest that yields peace and serenity, tranquility and security, a perfect rest with which Thou art pleased….–Abraham Joshua Heschel, Sabbath, pp. 20-23
We were made to dwell ever-after in this seventh day rest. Living and stewarding and “filling the earth,” pushing out the boundaries of Beauty’s creation, all while dwelling with him and resting in the tranquility, peace, delight, and joy—the holiness—of his ever-filling presence in the garden of his Eden.
After the Fall, we became separated from this constant flow of Beauty’s living menuha. And yet, out of his beautiful essence, the Lord continued to draw us to himself and offer us the rhythm of his creative days, including his Sabbath; his holy rest:
- He opened the holiness of time to the Israelites, in his provision of the manna: six days it appeared on the ground and they gathered just enough for that day’s provision. On the sixth day they gathered a double portion, for the seventh day was to be a holy Shabbat–a holy rest–unto the Lord. There would be no manna to collect; what they collected on the sixth day would be enough for two days’ bread. The seventh day was for Eden time: dwelling with the Lord, living in his Beauty, soaking in his menuha.
- He gave the tabernacle in the wilderness, and then the Temple in the Promised Land. These were modeled as miniatures of Eden. He filled each space with his dwelling presence and gave them as physical space in which his holy people could enter into his menuha of time.
- Along with these holy Eden dwelling places of holy Eden time, he established the Way of Sabbath as part of his “Ten Words”:
“Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God (keep it holy). You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for ADONAI your God…. For in six days, ADONAI made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why ADONAI blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself.”–Exodus 20:8-11; New Jewish Study Bible
- He also gave an entire calendar of holidays—holy-days—in which they were to shabbat from their regular work. Often these days were marked by feasting; always they were times of dwelling in his holy presence, his tranquility, his delight, his peace—the wholeness of shalom. Menuha.
- In a culminating symphonic crescendo, he gave his Son—the Incarnation of Beauty—as the ultimate Temple, filled and spilling over with the holiness of time, inviting “all who are weary and heavy-laden” to come and live in his shabbat:
“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”–Messiah Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 11:29-30
Jesus is “lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:8). He opens, once and for all, the seventh day rest—Eden time—to all who would have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts willing to be “pierced” by his beauty in such a way we are “shocked” out of the “humdrum” of our days, and set in a new direction. As the writer of Hebrews expresses:
“Today if you hear his voice,
Do not harden your hearts…
…there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”–Hebrews 4:7-11
Jesus tore the veil separating us from the Holy of Holies; from the essence of his holy time. We are no longer kept from entering into his seventh day rest except on special days and occasions. Rather, we are invited to jump into the tributary of his Eden time, drench ourselves in his holiness, and remain. Riding in his holy time waters all our days until we finally reach the glorious expanse of his Kingdom, that beautiful cathedral, a physical manifestation of his holy “architecture of time.”
The seventh day is like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date but an atmosphere.”–Abraham Joshua Heschel, Sabbath, pp. 21
The Way of Beauty is the Way of Sabbath. As followers of the Way, we are beckoned by its holy melody; invited to live today in harmony with its song.