Editor’s Note: Post originally published on May 5, 2017.
According to G.K. Chesterton, “It might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground” (From the essay Oxford from Without).
This quote packs so much theology.
What stands out most to me in Chesterton’s thought is the word true. I think that while earthly life consists of toil and repeated work, God planted the seeds for true life to flourish in our earthly lives and hopefully culminating in the heavenly playground if we achieve sainthood. Let me explain.
The Sabbath is Made for Man
The opening chapter in Genesis charts out the creation of the world by God. Creation occurred in six days [periods of time] and God rested on the seventh day. Why does God need rest? Is he not outside of time and space—thus He would never tire? The real purpose of the institution of the Sabbath rest on Sunday is because God knows that humanity needs time for rest and recreation! True joy and creativity oftentimes comes from our resting and recreational activities. Last summer I read a biography about St. John Paul II and it talked at length about the saint’s love of skiing. The late pope encountered God and recharged himself to continue his papal duties through this playful activity.
Finding Fulfillment on Sunday
God’s creative genius established the holiness of resting on the Sabbath. In Catholicism, the Mass represents the ultimate fulfillment of the Jewish Sabbath. According to retired Pope Benedict XVI’s book, Spirit of the Liturgy, the liturgy is a “playful thing” where people are in the presence of God, playing like children without aiming to achieve an end. Playing games with loved ones can generate a similar joy to that experienced during a Catholic liturgy, where the Eucharist is received weekly. Board games, lawn games, basketball, football, or soccer are all irrelevant as the creative activity of play itself is what brings joy.
Work and toil certainly has its place in our earthly lives. It can even serve as a means to holiness. Yet, we should not forget the importance of play as a means to holiness. Chesterton’s words are like a theological medicine that thaws my impatient heart, especially since I tend to be more serious. This week my challenge to myself is to look for God’s creative Holy Spirit in playing with my young children!