Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the sacred and the mundane

I haven't had a dishwasher in almost three years.  I love to cook, and we eat at home frequently.  My husband doesn't do dishes.  Thus, I spend a lot of time washing dishes. 

I have a secret.  Shhh, don't tell anyone . . .

I like washing the dishes

There is just something about pulling on my rubber gloves, getting the dishrag soapy, and diving in that makes my soul feel peaceful.  The immediacy of the results (I can see the clean dishes stacking up so quickly!) helps me feel like I'm really accomplishing something.  And the fact that I don't have to use my higher brain to do it frees me up for a little daydreaming.  Since we've been without a dishwasher, we've always had a window above the sink.  So I get to spend a little time gazing into middle distance. 

As I was washing some things last night, my mind drifted back to a great book.  I spent some time in a hard winter in 2005 reading this with the fabulous Prof. Bender:

Eliade helped me understand washing the dishes as a sacrament.  Not a capital S sacrament, like baptism or communion, but the same concept carries.  "By manifesting the sacred, any object becomes something else, yet it continues to remain itself, for it continues to participate in its surrounding milieu."*  When I pray over the bread and cup, "Let them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood,"** I am asking God to help me recognize the dual nature of what appears before me.  Bread and grape juice = profane.  Body and blood = sacred.  At the same time!

And so washing the dishes is my daily sacrament.  It is such a profane, mundane act.  But it is more than what it appears.  It transports me to a different place in my mind, and allows me to unlock thoughts that may remain hidden otherwise.  I participate in a double reality when I was the dishes.  And I don't think I ever want a dishwasher.

*Eliade, Mircea.  The Sacred and the Profane.  New York:  Harcourt, 1957.  P. 12.
** The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 38.

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