Vacare Deo

With the week-end approaching, it is worth spending a few moments thinking about the old monastic injunction vacare Deo, to make space for God. The Cistercian equivalent is the otium sanctum, holy leisure, which St Bernard characterised as otium negotissimum, very busy leisure. How do we make space for God in our lives? What kind of sacred leisure should our lives contain?

The first thing to note is that making space is not the same as doing nothing. Doing nothing worried St Benedict, for example, who saw it as idleness and the enemy of the soul. Making space for God, by contrast, is more a change of gear, adopting a slightly different focus. We make space for God by attending to him. That may mean we have to think about what we do, but it doesn’t mean that we necessarily stop doing things. Have you ever thought of inviting God into your week-end activities, for instance? Of course prayer and reading the scriptures matter, but so do the other activities in which we engage. Time spent with others is not time stolen from God unless we are selfish and self-indulgent about it.

I sometimes think that one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to create a God in our own image and likeness: exacting, a bit of a policeman, rather a killjoy, if truth be told. Yet in Jesus we see a much more attractive image of God, one who taught us to expect miracles at parties and holiness among the outcasts of society. The whole week-end, not just Sunday, can be filled with God. We just have to make space for him.



5 thoughts on “Vacare Deo”

  1. Indeedaroony, Sister… I chat to God throughout each day of the week, not just Sunday, inviting Him to partake of everything I do (when I remember!) Its also part of the reason for WOWChurch which starts on Dec 15th where all christians, regardless of their church, have an opportunitiy to engage with God and their christian family, one lunchtime during the middle of the week!

    I give thanks to our God, for your godly thoughts and practise, and continue to pray for you and your community of love.

  2. Sound words, gently delivered, as ever. Space for God has to be intentionally ‘carved out’ I believe. When I found myself responsible for a large church, I started the habit of quarterly retreats so that circumstance did not dictate my agenda. Now they are an oasis without which I cannot function.

  3. vacare Deo… otium sanctum… otium negotissimum…
    Ah, thank you so much for these explanations. I will need to print them and read them several times. But I love it. Thank you 🙂

  4. While I understand the point you are making, I have always disliked the disclaimer, oft-repeated in Catholic circles in recent years, that God is not a policeman. Properly understood, the mission of a policeman, including his full pastoral responsibility and duty to foster community life, could in fact be an excellent image for God. Calling God a policewoman would possibly be even better, since it would include qualities more often found in women.

  5. Thank you all for your comments.

    How we make space for God depends very much on our circumstances/temperament. It is the deliberately willing to attend to him that matters so much.

    I’m sure your retreat time is invaluable, Richard. Those who can’t get away have to find some other means (one reason we began our online retreat service). In the monastery, we have very many helps towards focusing on God.

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