otium sanctum means…


(photo: Thomas Merton)

A friend’s comment spoke volumes to me, so I wanted to devote a post on the idea.

“The key to spiritual growth is otium sanctum, so hard to trust in our world that values efficiency and quick results.” -Doug Jackson (Excerpt of his comment on the previous post.)

On page 85 in his book, Spiritual Direction and Meditation, Thomas Merton explains otium sanctum:

Now the Fathers of the Church well understood the importance of a certain “holy leisure”  [or] “otium sanctum.” We cannot give ourselves to spiritual things if we are always swept off our feet by a multitude of external activities. Business is not the supreme virtue, and sanctity is not measured by the amount of work we accomplish. Perfection is found in the purity of our love for God, and there is plenty of  time for it to mature.

Otium Sanctum is part of the not doing– It’s the “hard work” of that. The notion is paradoxical certainly, but bluntly revelatory.

How do you “not do” in your life, or for God which brings you to greater maturity?

Do you think God does or does not function with otium sanctum?

If so, how?

Thanks for your participation on this one.


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4 responses to “otium sanctum means…

  1. Laurie Mellinger

    Hi, Lisa–and thanks, Doug, for the quote that drove the post!

    I “don’t do” by taking at least a day per month which I call an “away day.” It’s not a day to catch up on chores around the house; it’s not a day to catch up on errands and shopping; it’s not a day to go to the movies and get a massage (although that would be nice!).

    Rather, it’s a day for me to go away with my Bible and whatever journal(s) I’m currently using, to “catch up” on my relationship with God. I re-read sermon notes, jotted-down dreams, and other journal entries, with an eye toward listening to God and asking for the ability to see more of the big picture of what’s happening in my life with God. I try to get out of the house, since the siren song of chores/errands is particularly hard to resist on those days. I try to be outdoors somewhere, even if it’s sitting in a park in my car in the rain. But it’s a day set aside to “not do,” in hopes that I will “be” better as a result.

    Whether maturity happens as an outgrowth, you’d have to ask God, my family, and/or my students! 🙂

  2. Doug Jackson

    Lisa – Good blog, and thanks for the shout-out. (And the description of what goes on at Life as Prayer; Twister, indeed!)

    “Whether maturity happens as an outgrowth, you’d have to ask god, my family, and/or my students.” A great statement, Laurie. One of my favorite things in all of C. S. Lewis is toward the end of “That Hideous Strength” where a group of women meet to dress for a feast. The wardrobe contains no mirrors and they can only “see” themselves by watching the reaction of their companions. (Lewis was drafting off John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” here but that’s for another time.) Done right, otium sanctum leaves us too enamored with the face of God to look away so we can check how we’re doing.

  3. “Done right, otium sanctum leaves us too enamored with the face of God to look away so we can check how we’re doing.” wow-That’s going to be what I meditate on today. powerful.