Making The Ordinary Extraordinary

Today marks the end of the Christmas period for another season and tomorrow we start the church's liturgical period called Ordinary Time. 
But it's not really the end at all. 
Nor can we really consider what is to come ordinary.. Just browsing through the scriptures for the next few weeks and seeing what happens is enough to convince me of that. 

There is a much touted saying these days "May You Live In Interesting Times", which has disputed origins and meanings. Some say it is not a blessing but a Chinese curse ! 
See here for various interpretations

Last year we saw deadly earthquakes and tsunamis that ripped through several countries, almost triggering a nuclear disaster in Japan and  they were mirrored, in North Africa and the Arab world, by a tsunami of another kind - one which led to a series of repressive dictatorships being challenged by democratic uprisings.

The winds of change that blew away three long-self-serving despots - Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine ben Ali, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi - will no doubt continue to rage in a region in which brutal oligarchs have held sway over ordinary folk for too long.

Will this year be a time for those dictators who remain to either yield to mounting pressure for reform or be swept away by urgent cries for reform ?

The Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has not been resolved and its effects will continue to be felt on world markets and the world struggles to counter the aftermath of the financial meltdown of 2008-2009 and return to growth.
Will the Occupy protests continue and what form will they take? There are endless scenarios for concern across the globe from threats of terrorism, environmental concerns, famine and war to domestic politics and social concerns on welfare, unemployment, health, crime and human rights. 

But leaving aside the large scale events,the older I get, the more I realise that if I can only stretch my neck to pay more attention to what is going on even in the more prosaic events of every day life nothing is ordinary in this existence. :-))
Invited or Uninvited, God is present.

So say Gungor in their great song This is Not The End.

Fine reflection here On Ordinary Time ( on why we can try to make the ordinary extraordinary....
and another super one here by blogger Kathleen M. Basi at her blog So Much To Say so Little Time, who writes:

"Anne Rice once wrote that Christians are either Christmas Christians or Easter Christians. In other words, they find their faith centered around Incarnation and gift, or around suffering and redemption.

But I realized something on Christmas Eve, in between the annual welling of tears during Adeste Fidelis and nursing a baby in the sacristy throughout the Liturgy of the Word. She’s not entirely right: she missed a category. I am an ordinary time Christian.
I love both Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter.

These central events of Christianity are packed with profound beauty and insight. I know the themes and connection points backward and forward. I tear up whenever I write about them, awestruck by the beauty of what I’m putting into words. 

But the reality is that on the days themselves, I hardly ever feel the profundity and the awe.

The high feast days can’t hold the weight of the expectations placed upon them. They’re supposed to be idyllic family times, lots of anticipation and the thrill of gifts (at Christmas) and egg hunts and candy (at Easter). On top of that, they’re supposed to move us to renewal of spiritual commitment.

But no one day can do all that–at least, not for me. Maybe occasionally, maybe by chance, maybe for a moment. Perhaps this is because I’m a choir director, and my job on those occasions is to be on top of the minutiae: making sure everyone starts and stays together, making sure the sound is properly balanced and adjusting microphone placement and levels if it isn’t, communicating corrections to members, making sure we lengthen or curtail the music to fit the ritual at hand. 

If I was sitting in a pew, or even following someone else’s lead, I wouldn’t have so much of my mind occupied by busy work, and perhaps I’d be a bit more present to the moment.

For me, faith and renewal belong to prosaic times. Faith ignites and inspires when glimpses of the divine pop up within the boring routine of daily life–sometimes in a church building, but more often outside it, when what I hear on Sundays and high feasts illuminates my humdrum everyday.

My “yay God” moments come on ordinary days, during ordinary tasks involving ordinary externals. Spiritual insight flames most clearly when the profound truths we celebrate on Christmas and Easter come together to show me something about an unremarkable Tuesday morning, something I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

And it occurs to me that this is “right and just,” to quote the new translation. Because we don’t live in the high seasons–we live in an ordinary world, and if faith is to have any chance of changing us, and through us, the world, it has to live there too. It has to surround our ordinary moments, whisper holiness into them, fill them up with purpose and meaning. More importantly, it has to direct our actions and thoughts–not just on Sunday, but every day. It has to become who we are, inseparable from what we think and do.

I am an Ordinary Time Christian. No longer will I feel inadequate or deprived when the high feasts don’t live up to the spiritual expectations placed upon them. Because God is everywhere at all times, and I will seek him where he is to be found."

 Thanks to Kathleen !

A lot of my friends have said that this year they are going to try and live more in the moment and to try not to worry or get so anxious ... so this quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez seems appropriate..
“If I knew that today would be the last time I’d see you, I would hug you tight and pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul.
If I knew that this would be the last time you pass through this door, I’d embrace you, kiss you, and call you back for one more.

If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. 
If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already." 


Cartoon Image above by Andrew Cotty of Brownblog Films from here

I was regretting the past
and fearing the future.

Suddenly my Lord was speaking:
“My name is I AM”

He paused.

I waited. He continued,
“When you live in the past
with its mistakes and regrets,
it is hard. I am not there.

My name is not I WAS.

When you live in the future,
with its problems and fears,
it is hard. I am not there.

My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment
it is not hard. I am here,
My name is I AM.”

Helen Mallicoat

Another upbeat one from Gungor : You Make Beautiful Things with a video to remind those of us living in these grey winter days in the Northern hemisphere that spring is not far away...

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