In the past few years, Sunday has become my favourite day of the week. I liked it when I was a child, too - we used to go to church, and then my family would often go out somewhere, and we'd have Sunday lunch together, and watch the Antiques Roadshow, and it was lovely - but there was always the thought of going back to school on Monday hanging over the day. Homework would always have to be done on Sundays, which is enough to spoil any day. It never occurred to me to do all my homework on the Saturday and keep the Sunday free from work, which Christians are after all supposed to do - that just seemed massively impractical. When would you have time for it all? When I came to university and lived with an evangelical Christian who said she never did any work on Sundays, I wondered how she managed, and thought I could never do that - when would the work get done?
Anyway, two years ago I joined my college choir, which sings at Evensong on Sundays. We practise in the afternoon beforehand and have formal hall afterwards, which often goes on until eight or nine. It takes up a large part of the day, and lots of people complain that they don't have time to do it because they have so much work to do. For a few weeks I would try and squeeze in a few hours of work between coming home from church in the morning and going to choir practice, and it did indeed feel rushed and busy. But gradually the ritual of being in the choir - the unchanging succession of practice, the service, drinks, dinner - began to impress itself on me as not a fun way of spending the time, but a proper way of spending a Sunday. I began to feel that I ought to keep Sunday better. So I tried not doing any work in those spare hours, and instead started to read the books I don't have time for in the week, to play music, or to write to friends.
It sounds idle and self-indulgent to spend a whole day without doing work, and I know it's a luxury I'm lucky to have as a student (and a graduate student at that, able to set my own timetable). But it's amazing what a difference it makes to how I approach the remaining days in the week. Sunday is a real day of rest for me now. I look forward to it, and I find that unlike in the days when I would come home from church and get straight back to my regular work, the prayers and hymns I hear at the services I attend impress deeply on my mind and my imagination, undiluted by having to compete with the ordinary concerns of every other day.
Even if it means Saturdays and Mondays are more of a rush, the work gets done somehow. Sundays are free of work, and that means free of worry, too; I force myself to be more trusting, and to concentrate on what really matters, not on the everyday things which nag away at me all the rest of the week. Sunday belongs to God, and not to me.
George Herbert wrote a lovely poem called 'Sunday', which you can find here. These are my two favourite verses:
Sundays the pillars are,
On which heav'n's palace arched lies:
The other days fill up the spare
And hollow room with vanities.
They are the fruitful beds and borders
In God's rich garden: that is bare,
Which parts their ranks and orders.
The Sundays of man's life,
Threaded together on time's string,
Make bracelets to adorn the wife
Of the eternal glorious King.
On Sunday heaven's gate stands ope;
Blessings are plentiful and rife,
More plentiful than hope.