Natural resistance

Faith at work

There is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade for learned as well as unlearned hands,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, echoing a theme that goes back at least as far as the Rule of St. Benedict. Both the 19th-century transcendentalists and the sixth-century abbot saw value in physical labor, even though and perhaps because each in his own way placed such a high value on the intangible, be it the Oversoul or the Holy Spirit. Physical labor would anchor the soaring mind; physical labor would keep both the American scholar and the monastic community self-sufficient. Not least of all, labor for all hands, learned as well as unlearned, would help to preserve that fellowship—which Emerson would have called democracy and Benedict would have called charity—that is always endangered by too strict a separation between those who write the theology of the Eucharist and those who bake the bread.


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