We are discussing a question posed to me recently about the origins of the term Deep Ecumenism in my work.  Besides the 18 themes in One River, Many Wells, I carry on another deeply ecumenical practice in my book, The Reinvention of Work (work was not included in the 18 themes above but truly it deserved a volume in itself), published in 1994.

Serving our relations: Colleen Layton of Frisky’s Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary in Woodstock, MD, feeds orphaned fawns. Colleen and her partner Scott Robbins have operated Frisky’s 5-acre facility with a small team of volunteers, supported only by donations, since 1970. Photo reproduced by permission.

Drawing on wisdom traditions from both West and East, I am struck what an amazing consensus exists in a variety of traditions around the world. 

The Tao Te Ching says: “In work, do what you enjoy.”

Thomas Aquinas says: “Always rejoice in the good work that you do.”

Bhagavad Gita says: “They all attain perfection when they find joy in their work.”

Thomas Aquinas writes:

Everything gives pleasure to the extent that it is loved.  It is natural for people to love their own work…and the reason is that we love to be and to live, and these are made manifest in our action.  Secondly, because we all naturally love that in which we see our own good.

Aquinas again: “To live well is to work well, or display a good activity.”

A teacher speaks to her students. Photo by Husniati Salma on Unsplash.

Hildegard of Bingen says:

A person becomes a flowering orchard.  The person that does good work is indeed this orchard bearing good fruit….Whatever humanity does with its deeds in the right or left hand permeates the universe. 

The Bhagavad Gita again:

What is work?  What is beyond work?  Even some seers see this not aright.  I will teach thee the truth of pure work, and this truth shall make thee free….All actions take place in time by the interweaving of the forces of Nature; but the person lost in selfish delusion thinks that he himself is the actor.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work, pp. 91, vi, 1.

Banner Image: The Gangsta Gardener, Ron Finley, who fought for Los Angeles to change its laws on vegetable gardens in public places to provide healthy food for all. Photo by the New Zealand Embassy on Wikimedia Commons.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you always rejoice in the work that you do?  Do you display a good activity in your work?  Are you a flowering orchard and realize that you are not the actor in your working?

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5 thoughts on “Deep Ecumenism: Work”

  1. Avatar

    There are particular words that Mathew voiced in today’s video segment that really spoke to me, those being “that our work is about birthing our beingness.” What I’ve learnt and continue to learn about this, within the health-care work that I do, is that there is both joy in this birthing of beingness and there is definetely birthing pains.

    What has helped me immensely in this learning within my work, has been the writings of Henri Nouwen and Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Their spiritual writings and their willingness to speak openly, vulnerably and honestly, regarding the birthing of our beingness, through the work of tending to those in need, and both the joys and pains of this, has helped me to accept this reality. As well, it has helped me to remain focused in my intentions as to what really matters, which has often deepened my understanding with regards to the meaning and purpose to be found, in the work that I have been called to do.

    What I continue to give birth to, sometimes in joy and sometimes through laboring pains, are what some call the virtues of Divine Love, the beingness of compassion, mercy, kindness, patience, self-giving, tender caring… basically the seeds of that inherent goodness that have been planted and sealed within. The joy comes when I have birthed this into my caregiving, throughout my work day. As well, there are also moments throughout my work day when I experience the laboring pains of when I have failed to nurture and cultivate these seeds of beingness.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, you speak of the words that Mathew voiced in today’s video segment that really spoke to you–those being “that our work is about birthing our beingness.” You say that you have learned more about this in the health-care work that you do, and that you have learned even more from the writings of Henri Nouwen and Mother Theresa, and their vulnerability and honestly regarding the birthing of our beingness, through the work of tending to those in need. May God bless you as You continue to birth your own beingness!

    1. Phila Hoopes

      team@dailymeditationswithmatthewfox.org In reply to enrique brieba.
      Hello Enrique,
      Thank you for letting us know…unfortunately we have no control over the speed at which the subtitles display. In the endnotes of every post on the website, you will see a link to the full transcript of Matthew’s video teaching. We hope you will find this helpful.
      Phila Hoopes
      Blog Coordinator

  2. Avatar
    Mary Ellen Quint

    Is Matthew familiar with the work of modern artist and mystic, Akiane?
    Her visions and paintings began at a very young age. As a young woman, they gained even greater depth of spirit. Just one example is her recent painting, “The Light.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqjGLFNmorg (after the usual YouTube commercial).

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