Rediscovering and living the ordinary in our lives
Already, we find ourselves surrounded by the latest holiday music in the radio and by the new billboards and signs announcing the up-to-date seasonal sales. Our TV commercials and favorite shows provide the perfect venue and packaging for what promises to be yet another memorable holiday moment with loved ones.
We slide from Halloween to Thanksgiving and from Christmas to New Year's Day with relative ease. Even our religious sensibility can become saturated with saintly feast days and days of remembrance and obligations.
Culturally speaking, we can point to the fact that much of our secular and religious life seems to be an endless movement from one celebration to the next, especially during our fall and winter seasons. We have become rather adept not only at planning specific rituals, meals, gift-giving, encounters and fiestas, but do so simultaneously. For example, it is not unusual to find ourselves preparing a Thanksgiving meal and, at the same time, be thinking of how this year's Christmas decorations will look and be presented.
And yet, we can also attest to the reality that much of this festive and psychic-spiritual fervor can leave us drained and longing for something more.
The holiday planning and frenzy often become a cultural form of spiritual escapism rather than an opportunity for genuine celebration in our lives. We can all too easily find ourselves fixating more on what dressing to use for the turkey than on how we will express our deepest gratitude. Or what is even worse, we end up spending our spiritual and emotional energies on all the externals of the holidays so that, by the time our loved ones join us, we are too tired to offer any quality time.
The irony is that what ought to be occasions for discovering and living out the grace of the ordinary in our daily lives ends up having way too much to do about nothing. What is particularly vital and germane to holidays is that they offer all of us the opportunity to really rediscover and relive the beauty and goodness ever present in the ordinariness of our lives.
It is not that a good meal, decoration or party favorite is insignificant or meaningless. On the contrary, all these externals we busy ourselves with can be helpful and can lead us to a place and time where we can be more alive with others and for others.
With the right amount of pause and attention, holidays can become those moments in our lives when we actually take the time to accentuate or mark the beauty and grace that comes to us from God's gratuitous love. Like Jesus in the Gospel stories, we, too, are invited to transform our ordinary gatherings and encounters into genuine occasions of sheer goodness and lavishness: more precisely, like the woman at Bethany in the house of Simon, we have to be ready and willing to break open our alabaster jars of the finest ointment and pour it over others without restraint (Mark 14: 1-2).
What the woman at Bethany teaches all of us is that our ordinary moments of grace are no place to hold back. Only with similar extravagant gestures of care for others will our ordinariness become the holy days they are meant to be.
As our holiday preparations continue to unfold, we pause to discover and live our Advent season -- for now, simply waiting with excitement.
Orozco is the director of Hispanic ministry for the archdiocese.
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