Dorothy Day

Basket of adorables by basking in God

  • January 5, 2024

The Christmas season is a time of rest for me. To clarify, I mean the Christmas season as we celebrate it in the Catholic Church, from Midnight Mass through to the baptism of the Lord.

Working for a Catholic organization, I am blessed to be given much time at Christmas off of work. It is truly a time filled with various traditions (including Grandma’s Grand Pajama party, Duck dinner, Year-In-Review and Epiphany processions of camels and kings). It is a time of easy days enjoying the company of my wife, children and other family members. It is a time of quiet evenings reading my newest book by the light of our Christmas tree (given in my Christmas stocking every year by my wife).

All this glorious time of rest is taken in the presence of the newborn Son of God who watches over us all from the creche in our hallway.

It was a social media post that got me reflecting on this time of rest recently. It was a general comment on how time really ceases to exist between Christmas and New Year’s and that one is obligated to spend as much of it on the couch as possible. Social media is filled with such posts in the week after Christmas. For example, another one asks, “Does anyone else find the week after Christmas a weird one? Like all that hype and now you got a dead tree and a mess of wrapping paper.”

What stirred me was the difference between being at rest and being in limbo, between fullness and emptiness. How different my experience is as one who experiences this season as a believer in Emmanuel — God among us! The word that comes to me is basking.” The time of rest I feel is an experience of basking. It is a basking in the knowledge that God is continuously breaking into our world and into our hearts — calling us to the great peace that only God can offer.

As someone committed to witnessing to that call in the context of the work for justice and peace in the world — this basking in the glow and presence of God is essential for me. I have been inspired the wisdom of many committed Catholic activists who also prioritized this basking.

It always struck me as such a necessary balance — to both work for the Kingdom of God and to bask in the presence of God. This is why my faith only made sense to me as a life of activism and activism only made sense to me as a life of faith.

In popular parlance, some might call this basking “charging your batteries.” I think it is much deeper than that though. Basking is not simply “charging something up” that is then depleted “out in the world.” It is about being reminded of the destiny we desire for all humankind. It is about connecting to the source. If I take time out from my work to enjoy a book, or share good food and fun with my family, it is because I desire these same things for the whole world. If I create time for prayer and reflection to be in the presence of God, it is because I dream of a world where everyone has an experience of that same presence. My retreats and times of rest are reflections of the world I want.

Dorothy Day was a woman who spent countless hours of her time and energy in the service of the poorest and most marginalized people in her community.  She also would famously carve out time, every morning upon waking and every evening before bed, to be by herself in her room — in prayer or sometimes even listening to opera, which she adored. She once wrote, “Woke up this morning with these lines haunting me: ‘Joyous, I lay waste the day.’ ‘Let all those that seek Thee be glad in Thee.’ ”

Joyous, I lay waste these days of Christmas. I am not plagued by a dead tree and mess of wrapping paper. Time passes without me knowing what day of the week it is, and I am not troubled or disturbed. I am at peace, basking in the presence of the newborn, Emmanuel.

(Stocking is Deputy Director of Public Awareness & Engagement, Ontario and Atlantic Regions, for Development and Peace.)

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