Docendo Discimus,  Literature

Docendo Discimus – Sabbath Rest

Docendo discimus is Latin for “In teaching, we learn.” I often think I’ve learned more as a teacher than I ever did as a student. I’ll occasionally share reflections on those “learning moments” here on the Foundations and Futures blog. 

One of my high school classes is studying George Herbert’s poetry right now. George Herbert was a 17th century scholar and pastor, who also wrote poetry now classified as “metaphysical.” That is, Herbert’s poetry and that of the other metaphysical poets (most notably, John Donne) deals primarily with matters pertaining to the soul. Paradoxically, these sometimes intimidating poets tackled their metaphysical subject matter through the humblest and most mundane of metaphors, turning windows, loaves of bread, and flowers into beautifully intricate extended metaphors. These metaphorical structures are called “conceits.”

In reading through some poems to prepare for class, I stumbled across Herbert’s poem called “Sunday” and I couldn’t help but smile at the evocative language Herbert uses to describe the joy of the Sabbath rest we find in Christ. Listen:

O day most calm, most bright, 

The fruit of this, the next world’s bud, 

Th’endorsement of supreme delight, 

Writ by a friend, and with his blood;

The couch of time; care’s balm and bay:

The week were dark, but for the light:

Thy torch doth show the way. 


Thou art a day of mirth:

And where the week-days trail on ground,

Thy flight is higher, as thy birth.

O let me take thee at the bound,

Leaping with thee from sev’n to sev’n,

Till that we both, being toss’d from earth, 

Fly hand in hand to heav’n!


My students and I have been discussing the idea of rest, lately, and how to balance needed rest with the temptation towards slothfulness. As high schoolers become more and more in charge of their own time, they are learning to discern between when they just don’t want to do something and when they really need to take a break. The subject of “productive rest” emerged from our discussion. Herbert’s comments on Sabbath rest help to refocus our thoughts and minds on the rest God has ordained for his people, and the subsequent efforts we can put forth in our walk each day, while resting in His accomplished work. Amen.

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