So much of life seems ordinary when we look at it on the surface. We do regular things over and over again, like working, taking care of families, shopping at the grocery store, keeping up with obligations and to-do lists; there is a rhythm, a pace of life that is familiar and known to us. Sometimes there is not much variance, and we do certain things repetitively, taking them for granted.
Special occasions beckon us to remember them as exceptional, as breaking us out of the ordinary. They are signs of "the good life," the true and the beautiful: births and birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, vacations and getaways, promotions and graduations, and the like.
These happy moments punctuate our existence, giving the ordinary meaning as it ebbs and flows up to and away from these high points. They remind us not to look down on the ordinary, for it too contains a beauty of its own.
Liturgically, the high points of the Church calendar—Christmas and Easter—point to pinnacles in Christian life. They are the high holy days that might be classified as the mountaintop experiences within the spiritual life, for we can say that a lot of life is lived in the valleys, in the in-between times. Yet when we look carefully at the ordinary days, the in-betweens, that separate our major Christian feasts, we see that they are infused with the graces from those pinnacle realities of the Incarnation and the Resurrection.
The beauty and the richness of Ordinary Time, as seen in the perennial green vestments and décor, gently remind us that all life is now infused with grace. Like the evergreen amidst the winter snow, the life of faith is alive inside of us. Ordinary Time is steeped in the knowledge and the witness that we are not alone. That God is still with us. That this is good, but it is not all that will be.
Ordinary Time brings with it a kind of daily hope, not only of "the more" to come in the afterlife, but of "the more" of God's Word and Presence that inhabits the everyday.
The cry of John the Baptist in this Sunday's Gospel is the same reminder that we hear following the consecration at every Mass:
Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away this sin of the world! (Jn. 1:29)
The extraordinary God comes to us under the ordinary auspices of bread and wine, by the power of his Word. The bread of heaven and the cup of salvation are now part of our ordinary circumstances. And though we may have witnessed this time and time again, it is anything but ordinary.
In first-century Palestine, when John spoke about the "Lamb of God," a lamb was a commonplacecreature in society. The Jews listening to John's proclamation about Jesus would have been reminded of their deliverance in the Passover. Before the Exodus, God had required that the lambs for Passover be pure and spotless; through the blood of the lamb, God promised his divine protection, and after the eating of its meat, Israel would be delivered from their captivity in Egypt.
In the promise of that holy meal, God held the past, the present, and the future of his people all together.
How curious John's proclamation of "the Lamb of God" must have sounded to first-century ears! John was announcing the extraordinary! The Lamb of God—the Son of God who would act as the saving Lamb—was present in that crowd, that day. But he didn't look like a lamb. He looked like a man. John's words were prophetic in nature, calling the people to see Jesus with new eyes.
Fast forward to today.
The words of John are still used in solemn proclamation to call our attention to the extraordinary, to the miracle that is Jesus Present in the Eucharist. And in that moment, our past, our present, and our future are held aloft in the hands of the priest who calls this to our minds and hearts. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Here again, Jesus doesn't look like a lamb, he looks like a host of bread. Again, we are called to faith, to see with new eyes. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is not just the high point of Ordinary Time, but of All Time. The pinnacle of Revelation was that God, in the flesh, had come into our midst. And he remains with us.
The beauty of this Revelation is that it feeds our memory and helps our heart to remember this when things are not so extraordinary for us, and it feeds our souls and bodies with supernatural divine life that we may live ordinary lives with extraordinary graces.
The Eucharist is the evergreen, never-fading pulse, pace, and heartbeat of life and time. It calls us beyond ordinary every day—to behold, to wonder, to persevere, to repent, to hope, to trust, to learn, to dream, to build, to sing, to grow, to serve, to love.
The Eucharist punctuates and highlights our existence in that all things and all times and seasons flow toward it, and flow from it. It is the good life, the true life, and the beautiful life that, One Fine Day, takes us beyond ordinary life and time to Life Eternal.
1/13/2011 5:00:00 AM