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Ten Concepts, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

21- The bodily rest


God Himself willed that the body takes rest. He created the body and He knows its nature that it needs rest. So He gave it the seventh day of the week as the day of rest. He said about the Sabbath, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

And concerning the holy days and feasts of the Lord, He said, "You shall do no work on it" (Lev. 23:3,7).

So, we should give the body physical rest, for it is not a sin but rather a divine commandment.

A person should be wise so as not to exhaust his body beyond its power nor give it more rest than it needs which leads to laziness or sluggishness.

I remember a professor of medicine in London who said to me: 'I cannot prevent you from hard work; for your responsibility requires that, but I prevent you from over work.' By 'over work' he meant work that is done after a person becomes exhausted and ought to have stopped. He said to me also: 'The work you do happily and joyfully will not injure your heart, whereas the work you do when feeling annoyed and troubled will exhaust you physically.' Feeling delighted in work makes one not feel tired.

There is a relation then between psychological or mental rest and physical rest. Image: Black Love, painting  by Neville Murray. صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: لوحة بعنوان الحب الأسود، عمل الفنانة نيفيل موراي. Image: Black Love, painting  by Neville Murray.

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: لوحة بعنوان الحب الأسود، عمل الفنانة نيفيل موراي.

An untroubled spirit can bear the burden of the body, but if the spirit is troubled, the body will feel tired. To make the body comfortable, as some scientists say, do not let it work for a long time without rest. Give your body some rest, even for a few minutes, amidst long hours of work. This is the purpose of the break given during work, to help your body recover and give you rest.

The body suffers also from illness and becomes unable to endure.

A sick person often needs complete rest, as we have discussed this issue before here on in other sections. He gets tired if he talks or listens too much. He gets tired because of any sound, movement or thinking. For this reason, hospitals limit visiting hours. Do not think that you give comfort to the sick by your lengthy visits or endless talk!

Bodily rest is different from laziness.

Laziness means that a person has the ability to work but does not want to work. Laziness, therefore, has many consequences such as, the failure to carry out responsibilities. There is also the physical aspect which laziness may lead to, such as heaviness or sluggishness and hence the body loses its natural vitality. It may also lead to weight gain and apathy.

It is well known that humid weather leads to laziness, whereas cold weather helps one to be active and move. Movement also generates heat within a person. Therefore the retired who spend the rest of their lives at home or at the club become sluggish, while the retired who go on working remain physically powerful.

Likewise active, working women differ from those who sit at home doing nothing but become overweight and lazy.

By bodily rest we do not mean absolute rest.

The body might be fast asleep but the heart works regularly. So too the other systems of the body : the respiratory system, the brain and the other systems, all of them work during one's sleep and rest. What causes trouble to the heart or the brain is exhaustion not work.

Thus rest does not mean refraining from work completely, it may sometimes mean changing the kind of work. That is why rest in French is called "recreation", which means "to create again" as when the mind creates one thought after another.

Concentrating on one thought exhausts the mind.

So, when one gets tired of concentration, one ought to move to another thought. The mind is always thinking, but it gets tired of deep thinking on a certain subject for a long time and needs to leave it for sometime to return to it afterwards after having restored its activity.

Sometimes rest is connected with fatigue.

A person may need, for example, some exercises to keep his body healthy by activating it. Some people may achieve this by walking or running. Fatigue may be endured for physical benefit. However, what we mean is fatigue caused by physical therapy, not exhaustion.

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