Volume 52, Issue 2, 2021
Labor in a Life of Liturgy: De Opere Monachorum and the Potential of Monastic Labor
This essay theorizes the interplay between Augustine’s vision of prayer and his theological treatment of labor. In so doing, it articulates some of the broader economic implications of Augustine’s theological system. More particularly, this essay theorizes the conceptual slippage between a prayerful life of Christian existence aimed at the beatific vision and labor properly related to, directed, undertaken, and contextualized. I argue that under the right conditions—conditions similar to those Augustine recognizes in a monastic context, and dissimilar to those fostered in contemporary capitalism—labor can become a modality of prayer. When labor is undertaken in this manner—which is made possible by God’s efficacious grace and the transformative power of the virtues—it is possible for the boundaries between labor and prayer to blur, such that the whole of one’s labor is grafted into one’s larger life of prayer before God. That mode of labor and prayer depends on forms of time, relationality, and selfhood that contrast sharply with typical features of labor undertaken in contemporary capitalism, all of which will be briefly canvased in conclusion.