The word “vacation” comes from a time when young men were expected to help with the harvest of grapes and olives, so they left their university residence vacant. The word “holiday”, on the other hand, refers to holy days, days set aside for celebration, prayer, renewal and rest. It is for these reasons that I do not say that I am going on vacation, but that I am taking holidays.
I am attempting to make two points: first, that the Church is never vacant. Oh the building might be empty from time to time, but the community never is on vacation. Not only will we continue to worship at our regular times, despite the absence of the rector, we will gather for baptisms, weddings and funerals. We are always in community with one another.
Secondly, despite the image of a wood paneled station wagon speeding toward the Grand Canyon that the phrase “taking holidays” can conger up, holidays are meant for the soul. God rested on the seventh day, God didn’t go on vacation. And that time of rest is reason enough for us to encourage rest for one another. It is a matter of spiritual discipline.
There is an old story about a neighborhood of families who rented a camp for the summer and each set of parents worked out a schedule so that one set spent their two week vacation-time at the camp looking after all the kids. Someone asked how is that restful? It’s not; it’s the rest of the summer, with the children at camp that is restful.
Now, I don’t advocate that kind of scheme, I only mention it to highlight the difference between vacation and holidays. I take holy-days, time for celebration, prayer, renewal and rest, not because I have earned them, but because God commands them. I expect faithful Christians to do the same.