A shared wisdom throughout the world and throughout the ages is that when we learn to savor the here and now, we come to realize that we are ever in the presence of the Holy One.
Jesus tells us over and over again that “the Kingdom of God is near” and urges us to refocus the way we look at the world so that we can see God’s mercy and grace where we so often miss it: in the most common, ordinary, basic moments of life.
Think about the Eucharist. To show our reverence and to invite reflection, we make it as beautiful and solemn as possible. We use beautiful linens, carefully polished words, soaring music, and fancy vestments. But at its heart the Eucharist is a family meal around a table. The table is set, we are invited, give thanks, and remember who we are. We break bread and a cup passed so that these elements can be shared by all. The table is cleared and the dishes set aside to be washed. The hoopla of vestments and linens and candles and music is not that different from the care we might give to a special dinner with friends and family at home. But there are moments of sweetness and beauty in the everyday: God is as present over a bowl of cereal in the kitchen as at the gorgeous high altar with silver chalice and paten.
Emphasizing the everyday is integral to Christian spirituality. It has been a particular focus of Celtic Christianity, the mode of Christian expression that took root when the faith spread to England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland beginning in the fifth century. Examples of Celtic Christianity are found in songs and prayers sung by women as they started an ordinary working day:
–stoking the fire
I will kindle my fire this morning
in the presence of the holy angels of heaven,
–washing the face, splashing water three times
The palmful of the God of Life,
the palmful of the Christ of Love,
the palmful of the Spirit of Peace,
Triune of grace.
–straightening sheets and blankets on the bed
I make this bed
in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
in the name of the night we were conceived,
in the name of the night that we were born,
and the day of the day we were baptized,
in the name of each night, each day,
each angel that is in the heavens.
God is present in the most familiar of actions.
As you may know, my father died on July 13. A great blessing for me in being present that final evening and day of his life was to hear family members tell him how the everyday moments of shared family life were the moments they most cherished: memories of teasing and joking, of sandwich lunches and ice creams together, of board games and going to the movies. One of my nieces burst into Dad’s room to play a song for him on her phone—Louie Armstrong’s “Wonderful World”—which sums up the joy of the every day, always there for the taking. It was poignant that one of the most significant and singular moments in my family’s shared life was filled with cherished memories of the very, very, commonplace. The Holy was seamlessly mixed with the Ordinary.
We’ll have some opportunities to explore Celtic Christian spirituality at St. Andrew’s this fall. In the meantime, I hope that the sweetness of late summer and the crispness of early autumn, and of the most basic elements of daily life come into a new focus for you, and that you find moments of blessing in the hours and days to come, no matter how mundane.
Quotes are from Esther de Waal, Every Earthly Blessing, 1991.