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The Holy In the Ordinary

This week’s reflection comes from Amanda Osenga, and is reprinted with permission from Seasons of the Spirit, 2014.  Copyright © Wood Lake Publishing Inc. 2013.

“It is in the ordinary places in our lives that the Holy shows up,
if we pay attention.”

Pebble stack on the stoneDorothy Day sought to embody living the beatitudes as she devoted her life to the poor, the voiceless, and to the peace of Christ. In her work she came to believe that the more common something became, the more holy it was. To travel to the Holy Land and visit the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount becomes a visit to a most ordinary place that has become marked as a sacred space. Thousands travel to the hillside every year to stand on the ground where it is believed that Jesus spoke the words that revealed the way of living into the reign of God.

Not unlike the Israelites who built altars in places where God’s presence was made real so that they would remember God’s faithfulness, today a garden has been planted and a church that overlooks the Sea of Galilee has been erected on this site. It has become a beautiful landscape and place to be enjoyed by pilgrims and tourist alike. And many do, as they come in by the busload and wander the grounds. It’s not uncommon to find groups of people worshipping and celebrating Communion together.

Rabbi L. Hoffman has suggested there are four ways to approach holy sites:

Anticipate – Take time the day before to anticipate what you will see the next day.
Approach – Remember to approach the site with a “muster of expectation” that you are going to have a powerful experience.
Acknowledge – When you arrive at the site, acknowledge the sacred, that you are on holy ground, and take that spiritual moment seriously.
Appreciate – Appreciate the moment, record and reflect upon your thoughts and feelings.

The Mount of Beatitudes has become, for many, a sacred place. However, to imagine this place as it once might have been as Jesus and his followers had gathered together, is to imagine a rather unremarkable landscape. It’s the Kin-dom message that Jesus shared and the radical transformation that takes place in following these words that has marked the Mount of Beatitudes as a worthy place to visit. It’s an ordinary place that has been marked as holy.

It’s in the ordinary places of our lives where the holy often shows up if we pay attention. A trip to the Holy Land to experience these sacred moments is not needed. Each morning we can anticipate, approach with the expectation that something powerful might happen, whether it be at the bus stop, at our desk, in our cubicle, feeding the baby, at the gas pump, waiting in line, or around the table. God is present in the simple act of sharing bread and the wine. We can acknowledge that each place we step on is holy ground. We can end our day in appreciation of the holy moments, just reviewing and reflecting, and giving thanks. God is perhaps most present in the ordinary common places of our lives – it is, after all, where most of life is lived.

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