Well, it’s finally over. While the world took their Christmas stuff down at midnight on the 25th, we held strong, our tree blazing straight through New Year’s and the whole week after. But now it’s officially over. Bye, bye Christmas, hello Ordinary Time. Though the color for Ordinary Time is green, what we see a lot of here in the absence of snow is muddy brown. It’s time to hunker down into winter, with nothing but Valentine’s Day to tide us over into Lent.
As we enter this season from Christmas, my thoughts have turned to the Holy Family’s long stretch of ordinary time. They had some absolutely amazing experiences that first Christmas, didn’t they? Visits from angels, a few long road trips, a huge star, visits from shepherds and Magi, prophesies from Simeon and Anna, royal gifts and stern warnings in dreams. Later, there would be more amazing things: healings and walking on water, huge crowds of followers, the conversion of sinners, controversy with authorities and of course a humiliating death and triumphant resurrection. But in between these two brief spans of years where God manifested himself very plainly were 30 years where he settled into life as any ordinary carpenter’s son.
Isn’t this how our lives are? We have very profound events in our lives: marriage, births, deaths, illnesses, graduations, milestone birthdays. We have profound religious experiences too: initial conversions or reversions, intense retreat experiences, spiritual epiphanies, etc. But the majority of our lives are much more mundane. We settle into a routine of commuting, house cleaning, nose wiping, errands and carpool. Our spiritual lives take on a pattern too of daily prayer, grace before meals, Sunday Mass, monthly confession and whatever other practices we make part of our family’s religious life. There can be a temptation to become a little ho-hum about everything, or to live distractedly, always latching on to the next thrill, whether it be the next night out or the next retreat.
This is a serious thing, since the mundane makes us such a huge majority of our lives! It is also why I think God decided to make it such a big part of his own earthly life. He could easily have come as a conquering king, swishing down from heaven in grown-up form to save the day. He could have started his ministry that day in the Temple, when at 12 years old he was already blowing away the Rabbis. But he didn’t. Taking on our humanity meant taking on the vast expanse of years in simple, poverty-line family life. Everything Jesus touches turns to gold. That is why he chose to live a quiet, hidden life in Nazareth for those 30 years. It’s where his sanctifying work began. Not only did he begin suffering for us then through hard work, obedience to his parents and the humility of not being recognized as the creator of the universe, but he transformed those daily things so that they could sanctify us, too.
What will you do today? I will attempt to teach my son to add, read and know more about Jamestown and mountain habitats. We will probably go to the library and the grocery store. I will likely change 2 or 3 poopy diapers, check work email and fret about getting a babysitter. I will make three meals and two snacks, give out several reminders, text back and forth with my husband and my mom. While I hope that these things are done with a smile, I will not be surprised if they are accompanied by whining and grumbling: by either me or my family. Therefore, the day will also likely contain several apologies. With my list or with yours, there is hidden grace. The grace of doing our duty with love.
So today as I run through my to-do list, I will try to steal away a moment to think about Mary making bread for the evening meal, going to the well for water, mending and washing clothes. I will think of Joseph who scraped by a living for his family by the sweat of his brow, and little Jesus, wisdom incarnate, doing his chores and memorizing his lessons. I will think of the inconceivable miracle living in that tiny Nazarene household and ask that family to help me see the miracle in mine, as well.
Copyright 2012 Libby DuPont