It is not something that most of us like to admit, but the truth is that "fasting," any disciplinary or dour approach to life - productivity - has its own rewards. However difficult the work itself may seem to those who watch us do it, there is something secretly very satisfying about the ardor of doing it. Giving up Spartan routines to visit old relatives or play with children, to write personal mail or take the dog for a walk, to go fishing or have a picnic supper on the shore makes the hardy and virtuous cringe at the very thought of it. We are serious people, too absorbed by important things for those things. We are too "busy" to be human.
So, we drone on through life, wearing our sensitivities to a frazzle. We go from day to day drowning our mind in more of the same instead of letting it run free in new fields of thought or new kinds of experience or new moments of beauty. We just keep doing the same things over and over again. Worst of all, we consider ourselves spiritually noble for doing them. Virtue becomes the blinders of our soul. We never see the God who is everywhere because we never look anyplace but where we've looked before.
Re-creation, holy leisure, is the mainstay of the contemplative soul, and the theology of Sabbath is its cornerstone. "On the seventh day," scripture says, "God rested." With that single image, that one line of Holy Writ, reflection, re-creation of the creative spirit, transcendence, the right to be bigger than what we do, is sanctified. To refuse to rest, to play, to run loose for awhile on the assumptions that work is holier, worthier of God, more useful to humankind than refreshment, strikes at the very root of contemplation...
From Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light by Joan Chittister (Orbis Books, 2000).