St. Josemaria Escriva: “There is a parenthesis of centuries, inexplicable and very long, in which the following thought sounded and resounded as something new: to seek Christian perfection in the sanctification of ordinary work, each one through his profession and in his own state in life. For many centuries, work was considered something vile; it was even considered as an obstacle for the holiness of men by persons of great theological formation.”
Burkhart and Lopez comment that “When speaking of “a parenthesis of centuries,’ this text offers the occasion to make an historical survey, examining the sense and value of ordinary work for Christian life. Not only of work, but of all tasks proper to daily life, including the common family and social tasks, since it seems to us that what St. Josemaria says about work, applies also to the other daily activities.
“It’s not easy to determine when this ‘parenthesis of centuries’ begins. Certainly, it is not in the first times of Christianity since for those who embraced the faith in that epoch, the daily tasks continued being the same before and after their conversion. They did no change work when converting, nor abandoning family or city. These same realities simply acquired a new grandiose dimension.”
It may be helpful in this regard to include the “Letter to Diognetus:”
"Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.
Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body's hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself."
From a letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)