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Blog

Heaven's Work

Jayne English

Original manuscript of the opening of The Rite of Spring. “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”—Rumi

I’ve recently fallen headlong in love with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. I was swept up by the video of Proms musicians playing its complexities. Beyond the power of its rhythms and sounds, I was captivated by the orchestra's energy, and its intense and graceful movements. The piece is dynamic in passion and work. So dynamic, it has me considering the correlation between work and joy. Will we work in heaven?

We often consider work on Earth to be a result of the Fall. Roberto S. Goizueta speaks of the benefits of aesthetics and how they enhance life, but he leaves work off his list of activities that are integral to fulfillment. Play, recreation, and celebration are the most authentic forms of life precisely because, when we are playing, recreating, or celebrating, we are immersed in, or ‘fused,’ with the action itself, and those other persons with whom we are participating. Thus, we are involved in and enjoying the living itself.” It’s as if he’s saying, while we all know work is important, we only find joy in these other aspects.

In the language of Genesis, God established the pattern of work and rest before the Fall. He “finished the work he had been doing,” and “he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” As Philo of Alexandria put it, "God never ceases to work; but as it is the property of fire to burn, and of snow to cool, so of God to work.'' And Jesus said, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." Adam and Eve worked in the garden and cared for it before the Fall. Wouldn’t these points make work, in a sense, a grace of God, and a gift?

The poet Wendell Berry challenges a claim that “more free time” might increase our happiness. “The old and honorable idea of ‘vocation’ is simply that we each are called, by God, or by our gifts, or by our preference, to a kind of good work for which we are particularly fitted. Implicit in this idea is the evidently startling possibility that we might work willingly, and that there is no necessary contradiction between work and happiness or satisfaction.”

If work and happiness are interrelated as Berry suggests, wouldn’t they be integral parts of a perfect heaven? The fact that God himself “worked” might be the greatest reason we can anticipate joyful work in heaven. But the Proms Rite of Spring is a close second.