Becoming Sabbath

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM  June 16, 2019

Whenever a friend of mine sees me, she calls out, “How you be?” The way she utters my name, the way she inquires into the state of my soul immediately conveys that I’m approaching safe harbor and the shelter of a compassionate and listening heart in her. That I’m about to encounter someone who cares deeply for my well-being, someone who will accompany me through the changing terrain of my of arms copy

My friend witnesses what it means to actually become Sabbath. While we usually speak of observing, keeping, and honoring it, Barbara Reid, writing in Abiding Word, stretches our thinking when she explains, “Sabbath is so much more than regulations about how to keep from profaning it.  It is the space in which to enter into awesome mystery, to be embraced by the creative and liberating love of God, to give thanks together as a freed people, and to bring those gifts to birth in the remainder of our workaday world.” In a very real sense, Reid is also describing what it’s like to be in the presence of another who’s engaged in the deep inner soul work of embodying Sabbath. 

Sometimes it takes the primal intuition of a child to distill a definition down to its essence. When children were asked in a survey to answer the question, “What is love?” their responses also offered fresh thinking about becoming a source of Sabbath for others. One child evidenced a particularly profound recognition of what love is. “When someone really loves you,” the child wrote, “the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

When we offer others the certainty that their name and all they cherish is held as sacred by us, when we embody sanctuary, a space that honors and respects the secrets and the fears and the hopes our neighbors carry, we are becoming Sabbath. Clearly, Sabbath is so much more than the stillness and space in which we honor the Holy One, pause to reflect, and look inward as a way to provide self-care. It is extending spaciousness of heart outward by saying to the other, “There is room in my heart for you.” It is cultivating the ability to sit still in a room, ready to open the door to whoever knocks. It is entering into Mystery. It is echoing the invitation of Jesus, “Come to me, all who are burdened and heavy laden.” (Matthew 11:28) When we live from this sense of Sabbath, we are open to whatever comes into our lives.

In a post on Spirituality & Practice’s Spiritual Practice of the Day, Wayne Muller reflected on the call to enlarge our hearts. “At our best,” he wrote, “we become Sabbath for one another. We are the emptiness, the day of rest. We become space, that our loved ones, the lost and the sorrowful, may find rest in us.”heartincoffee

May we work at becoming our very best selves. May we keep the empty space so that the broken and the wounded, no matter when they enter our lives, will find room in our attitudes, our consciousness, our worldview. May we offer shelter and sanctuary and haven from the storm to all who are seeking a place to pause, to all who are battered by the fierceness of everyday living. Through the grace of the Holy One, may there be space enough and compassion enough and welcome enough in us so that we may truly become Sabbath.


Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on Sabbath as spaciousness of heart, a place to rest, a sanctuary.
Call to mind an experience of being welcomed and loved by another in this way or a time when you offered Sabbath through your attitude or action.
Ask the Holy One to deepen the practice of becoming Sabbath in you.
Close this time with a bow and with thanks to the Holy One who is forever a welcoming Presence.


Happy Father’s Day to all who are becoming Sabbath in your roles as nurturers, protectors, wisdom figures, mentors. 

Please hold in your prayer all who will be part of this upcoming event: 

June 23 – 28: A guided retreat I’ll be offering for the Sisters of St. Cyril and Methodius at St. Cyril Spiritual Center, Danville, PA. Thank you!

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