The Ordinary Works of Daily Life in Medieval Spirituality: St. Benedict, Our Daily Work, and Walter Hilton
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This thesis is a study of ordinary work in medieval spirituality and is focused on several texts selected for their continuity of themes: The Rule of St. Benedict (6th century), the Middle English pastoral treatise Our Daily Work, and the Middle English writings of Walter Hilton, namely The Scale of Perfection and Epistle on the Mixed Life. In this thesis, I use the term “ordinary work” to refer to manual labor and deeds of mercy. In all these texts, ordinary work is good not just for the sake of the things it produces, but has intrinsic goodness. First, ordinary work can be offered to God in loving service. The Hebrew concept of avodah, a term for both work and worship, can be seen in the use of the Latin term opus or the Middle English term werke. Second, ordinary work is good for man, serving as a remedy for acedia and helping to cultivate virtue. Finally, for these authors, manual labor and deeds of mercy are an integrated part of a life of prayer. Prayer overflows into all ordinary work of daily life.