The Miracle of the Ordinary
In the liturgical year, we are now in “ordinary time.” This period of the church year will last until Ash Wednesday (March 5th this year) when the season of Lent begins. The fact that we are in ordinary time got me to thinking about the role of the ordinary in my life.
I’ve written about the importance of the ordinary before. Here is a passage from the new revision of my book Everyday Epiphanies:
One of the greatest gifts God has given me is my love for the ordinary. Vanilla ice cream, daisies, and even a glass of water often bring me just as must joy and pleasure as baked Alaska, long-stemmed roses, and fine French wine.
I feel sorry for people who overlook the ordinary, who don’t appreciate the everyday, who need the exotic to experience pleasure. In the novel Middlemarch, George Eliot writes, “If we had a keen vision and a feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”
Happy are they who have a keen feel for everyday human life, whose ears are attuned to the roar of the ordinary. Happy are they who get a kick out of the commonplace, for they shall encounter joy and pleasure wherever they go! (p. 26)
Is appreciation for the ordinary innate or is it learned? I think it is mostly learned—or at least encouraged. I remember my mother taking me out to the incubators to see the newly hatched goslings, still wet from being inside their shells. And I recall my dad taking me for walks in his garden in the evening and pointing out to me the ordinary miracle of growing things like beans, tomatoes, and corn.
The truth is, the ordinary is the real miracle in our world. The writer Wendell Berry has written about this. He said the greatest miracle is that anything exists and keeps on existing. He goes on to say that Jesus’ turning of water into wine was “a very small miracle.” Then he adds, “We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (and soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.”
On this ordinary day, in ordinary time, it might be nice to pause and name some of the ordinary things in your life that nourish you, that console you, that fascinate you, that give you pleasure. Here are a few of mine: the slant of light on a winter afternoon, the smell of freshly brewed coffee as I come down the steps in the morning, a child telling his first “knock-knock” joke and then giggling over it, a dog with his head sticking out of the back window of a moving car with his long ears flapping in the wind, the soft patter of rain on the roof when I crawl into bed at night, the sudden appearance of a friend’s face in a room full of strangers, the feel of clean sheets on the bed, riding in the car and hearing the familiar strains of Andy Williams’ “Moon River” on the oldies station, gazing at the array of cardinals, chickadees, and finches at the bird feeder.
What are some of the ordinary things you treasure in your life?
Let us pray:
Ingenious Creator, thank you! Thank you for everything, for every thing! Thank you that anything exists at all and continues to exist. Thank you for the many miracles of ordinary life, miracles I sometimes take for granted—those everyday miracles that refresh me, delight me, console me, fascinate me, and give me pleasure. May I grow in the appreciation of these ordinary blessings in my own life and may I nourish that appreciation in others. Amen.
I treasure a warm house on a cold night, the stillness after a yoga session, the smile of a young child in the middle of Mass when his parents are not looking, and a call from a friend that I have not heard from in a long time.
I love the sounds of children’s laughter when they are playing at the park and the sound of church bells peeling during the day. I treasure the early morning quiet. Peggy
I love to hear the clippety-clop sound in Middlefield when an Amish buggy goes by.,the popping sound of a rolling fire at Metro Park Pavillion on a snowy day; the bright red cardinals that visit my birdfeeder everyday at 8:00. They look like red bows hidden within the evergreen bushes till they make their appearance against a white snowy backdrop; the sound of the rapid transit at Shaker Square as it made it’s turn on the steel rails to pick me up back in the day when I worked downtown; a simple meal shared with a friend; ironing, tuning an out -of-tune guitar! Lord you make all things new again; transform my heart as we approach the season of Lent and celebrate the ordinary while in anticipation of the truly extraordinary.
Thanks Sr. Melannie –
The sound of the birds chirping in the morning hours as they make their way to the feeders in my backyard. The cats purring while curled up on my bed.
I love the endless expanse of the Gulf and the silence of the condo…thanks for your notes too. me
I love waking at night and feeling my husband and me and our two cats all snuggled together. I love the smell of the air when it raises above 32 degrees after being below freezing for weeks. And I love the memory I have of stopping into the NDA chapel at the high school on my way into school each day: the sudden quiet after the bustle of the bus and hallways, and the respectful silence of dozens of girls kneeling in prayer for just a short time before returning to the bustle & drama of High School.
I love the sound of the cheerful bus driver greeting my handicapped son every morning as he boards the bus! God bless you!
I love the brilliant sunsets I can see as I stand on the west campus at our motherhouse.
I love the holly berries encased in ice.
I love the sliver of the moon and the star-filled sky on a clear night.
I agree, we need to practice the “attitude of gratitude” to find the grace in the ordinary. I love the scent of newly mown grass, the “crystals” shining on a new snowfall, a rabbit’s prints across that snow, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and a friend to share them with.
I love when my car starts on a below 0 winter day . Actually, i am always amazed how the cars keep working. Cars are ordinary but amazing. I am very thankful for them.
I love a cup of hot tea on a cold morning….especially with a spoon of honey to add!
I am thankful that you call to mind the “ordinary” things that surround all of us all of the time. Sometimes I get caught up in not paying attention to what is right in front of me. God bless you, Sr. Melannie.
I love my husband’s jokes and our family get togethers. I love the appearance of a group of nuns walking along in a movie with their habits and the peal of church bells. I love the group of women who support each other through thick and thin. I love you, Sr. Melanie
I love the smell of babies. I love the smell of lilacs. I love to see geese flying overhead and honking. I love it when I find a praying mantis and can watch it’s antics. I love the single heron that flies over our house morning and night. I love hugs and laughter. I truly love the magic of life.
I enjoy your thoughts and meditations. They make my day. Thank you
I love to see my children nestled in bed, sound asleep, breathing steadily, completely content. I love the flash of the red cardinal in the forsythia bush. I love visiting with a friend and having the hours fly past without our realizing it. I love the feeling of a poem coming on. And the feeling that comes after writing it. There are so many joys!
Reading all of your responses brings a smile to my face!
Ordinary things can bring such joy and comfort: a warm shower on a cold, cold morning, a sunny walk around snow-covered fields, white x’s in a blue, blue sky, a happy song that makes you want to dance.
I’ve always thought that your most easily identified gift in your writing is finding the holy in the ordinary. I like sunsets, beauty, music that makes my heart soar, warm snuggly things, (like the time when my nephew Sam was about a year old and delighted in covering me with his stuffed animals as I sat in a rocker next to his bed—he then leaped on top, laughing and hugging them and me), flowers, trees with golden leaves brilliant with sunlight with evergreens in the background, and many other delights that our good and loving God has given us to enjoy.
I love the crashing of the waves,praying in that soothing chaos.As I walk along the Sea Point promenade it calms my soul.
God deemed it fitting to bless me with a wave drenching me from head to toe,when I prayed for fun.What a WONDERFUL experience,had to laugh at myself
I am so happy I discovered your site this morning. It brings me joy to know that I can look forward to hearing from you each week. My simple pleasures, to name a few as I have many, are just being able to breath fresh air each day, to see the beauty of a sunrise and sunset, and to see my sons smiles each day. God has blessed me with many things to which I am so grateful. Our lives are so busy that we need to enjoy these simple things to bring us back to our lives and praise God for all he does each and every day.
The sudden invasion of many very small birds after the larger “bullies” have left the bird feeders…..
I love that all our children and grandchildren love each other without reservations……
The ocean with its ever changing beauty never ceases to amaze me…….. A quiet chapel…
It is an extraordinarily special blessing when we say grace holding hands around the table and my 22 month old grandson has the biggest smile on his face the whole time, and at the end he doesn’t say “amen” but squeals “yay!!!”. Then he wants to “pray” again and again.