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How a sacramental worldview is helping me wash dishes

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Sarah Robsdottir - published on 09/19/22

The spiritual is at work in the physical, in the concrete ...

Frodo’s ring. Cinderella’s glass slipper. Turkish Delight in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — modern man and woman (particularly this unenthused homemaker) readily understand the need for concrete signs and symbols in literature and movies. These touchstones speak to us, summing up specific messages in simple, physical objects. 

We also embrace signs and symbols in everyday life. Golden arches mean fast food. A red light says stop; a green light go. We welcome these physical signs — traffic lights prevent car accidents, for heaven’s sake. And speaking of heaven …

There are signs and symbols directing us to and giving a foretaste of our eternal home as well.

According to Father Harrison Ayre in his book Mysterion: The Revelatory Power of the Sacramental Worldview — a book that’s mercifully changing the way I view dishes and laundry — heavenly signs and symbols begin with the seven sacraments, but go on into the physical world forever.

In a nutshell, Ayre explains the sacramental worldview — something I’ve heard mentioned by many thinkers, yet never summed up so concisely — as: 

“The idea that Christ is always at work; that we always participate in [his life, death and resurrection]; and that the spiritual is at work in the physical, in the concrete. Discipleship is living out the fact that Christ is really and truly encounterable in all things every day.

“Encounterable in all things every day,” like washing dishes and folding laundry. Thanks to Fr. Ayre, I now view each scrubbed-out pot and every pair of folded socks as a token of love for God and for my family; a sign that I’m laying my life down with Christ for the people who share my home. 

Housework still isn’t fun by any means, but I’m no longer under the delusion that it’s meaningless or a distraction from more important creative endeavors or the “higher” spiritual work of prayer. When viewed through the sacramental mindset, housework is an act of everyday mercy. Housework is prayer itself. 

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