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The Sacred Ordinary

December 23, 2011

By Sister Renee Y.

It was a scrawny excuse for a plant, relegated to an after-holiday sale at Home Depot.  Nothing distinguished it except that it was the only green promise on a frozen, white January day.  I bought that Christmas cactus ten years ago with at least some small hope that it might someday yield its one magnificent flower from which it draws its lofty name. No such thing!  For ten years, it remained just green – alive, but otherwise unremarkable.

Then one day three weeks ago, I noticed a deep red spot at its tip.  Hopeless as I’ve become about the disappointing plant, I assumed someone had dropped a little spaghetti sauce over its perch in our kitchen.  But to my delight the next morning,  that “sauce” had blossomed into a luxuriant flower – a symbol of the sacred power of life hidden within the ordinary.

Life is like that cactus.  If we are young, or when we once were, we often expect life to blossom quickly with some extraordinary design for our existence.  More often than not, the years teach us that our great promise wears ordinary clothes – that we will find our deep happiness within the mundane routine of life.

We sometimes pass by the moments of our lives as if they were abandoned shells on a beach.  And yet, if coaxed open by the gentle attention of hope, each moment contains its own precious pearl – sometimes realized only after we have lost the opportunity.  There are times in life when our jobs, our relationships, our dreams for our children, our dreams for ourselves take on the tone of those grey, abandoned shells.  We get so caught up in our ordinary lives that we lose the capacity to see their inherent power and beauty.

But what could have been more ordinary than a single container of oil left in the Temple closet?  Yet, that oil burned for eight times its potential, lighting a Menorah of hope for centuries yet unborn.

And what could have been more ordinary than a simple stable, warmed on a cold night only by the steaming breath of lambs and calves?  Yet there, faith bore a Light that has illuminated the ages.

During these Holy Days, may each of you and your loved ones be blessed by your “Sacred Ordinary”.  Through the grace of attentive love and patient hope, may you find in your daily lives a Light to inspire and delight you.  May you discover the Love that gave you life and waits to blossom every day in your hope.

Whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or in whatever way you celebrate the wonder of your life, I wish you all a season of extraordinary blessing in the sacred ordinary of your days!

Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas and a Joyous Holiday to all of you and your families!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2011 10:53 am

    Beautiful Sister Renee! Thank you! And Merry Christmas to you!

  2. Mary Louise Castillo permalink
    January 5, 2012 8:17 pm

    Sister Renee,
    Thank you for your powerful images! I entered into your words today while engaging in the correction ritual of semester exams. As I move from one inspiring paper to one “not there yet” my mantra ‘ Ok, this one needs more polish’ reminds me that these gray pearls may not shine in my world languages class at this moment and may remain hidden until a “gentle attention of hope” polishes them. Those of us in education are not driven solely by the disciplines we teach but rather by our desire to identify and nurture the hidden gem in each of our students. Now back to my “ordinary clothes” and again, THANK YOU..MERCI…GRACIAS

  3. January 26, 2012 11:48 am

    It took God a while with Moses. Look at how long he was away before he was finally ready for God to call him, as He in His divine plan, had purposed all along. Moses was humble, and yet, strengthened by God’s power, able to do amazing things! But it took time for him to get there and God was patient with him.

    Things happen in due time. I think our society is too driven by instant gratification and has lost sight of this one aspect God wants us to have: Patience. If we have it, it will be blessed and rewarded, just as it was with you, even in this humble and ordinary plant.

  4. Mary Louise Castillo permalink
    January 31, 2012 9:10 pm

    Sister Renee and readers,
    Any ideas out there on how best to convey to adolescents the precious value of time/waiting, and nurturing? I’m counting on your images of the cactus…will let you know if the idea blooms for them!
    Again, thank you for your inspiring story.
    Mary Louise

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