Quotidian Mysteries: The Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work"

Quotidian: an adjective meaning “of or occurring every day, daily”

This book was mentioned on the What Should I Read Next podcast during a week when I was having a decidedly difficult time embracing and enjoying the daily tasks, the “women’s work” that threatened to consume me. A book that might make laundry seem like a sacred liturgy? I was intrigued.

In a nutshell, Kathleen Norris’s slim book (less than 100 pages) examines how we have diminished the quotidian, everyday, tasks of life, how we have demeaned women in the process, and how perhaps, God doesn’t think these tasks inconsequential in the least.  Perhaps, what we do every day, those mundane tasks that must be done today, tomorrow, ad nauseum; perhaps that is some of the most important work in the world.

One of my major revelations while reading this book was how we, as Protestants in particular, have rejected liturgy and, in doing so, have in many ways rejected the sacred nature of the quotidian.  Let me see if I can explain. When we set aside the liturgical calendar, the rhythm of the church year, we tend to diminish all the days that aren’t Christmas and Easter.  We put away the weekly taking of communion and repetition of the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed because we feel that things done every week, over and over, lose their impact.  They stop being special.  And only things that are special are really important.

But what we fail to realize is that the repetition of these things doesn’t diminish them, it actually speaks to us of their vital nature.  We don’t take the Lord’s Supper weekly because it is unimportant, but because there is not one week that goes by where we don’t need to be reminded of our need of Jesus. We repeat prayers weekly, daily even, not because they are easy or common, but because we need grace weekly, daily, hourly.  His mercies are new every morning not because his mercy runs out, but because our need for it persists morning after morning.

When it comes to the nitty-gritty, what ties the biblical narrative together into a revelation of God’s love is that God has commanded us to refrain from grumbling about the dailiness of life. Instead, we are meant to accept them gratefully, as a reality that humbles us even as it gives us cause for praise.  The rhythm of sunrise and sunset marks the passage of time that makes each day rich with the possibility of salvation… (page 22)

I highly recommend this book to both men and women, those married and single, those with children and those without. Norris’ words have helped me see the tasks that tend to fill my days as more than just boxes on a to-do list.  They are the liturgy of life and they really are beautiful.





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