Monday, November 26, 2012

The Transcendant Ordinary.

A seasonal re-post.  I still wept. 

Why I Wept...

It comes unannounced. It has no warning signs.

You may be driving and you find yourself miles from the last remembered intersection. You realize at odd times that you have been staring through someone, the bank teller, the cashier, or your spouse sitting across the dinner table. You may be washing your hands and look up into the mirror. For a moment you see someone else, a stranger with your face. You may be holding a half-ripe tomato at the produce counter, and somehow, somewhere inside you go empty, empty as a beggar's plate. There comes a disquieting want within you. It leaves you hollow for a moment and then is gone. You make the turn, cash the check, dry your hands, and you shake off the feeling like a cat-nap and go on, distracted by a magazine cover, a familiar tune, a hastily engaged shallow conversation.

This feeling, like all inexplicable feelings, weaves itself into the fabric of your days. It may be a brief sigh, a momentary sadness, sometimes a deep weariness of the heart. It is not quite darkness. It is not truly light. It is not quite despair, it is not hope. It is not quite fear, it is not peace. It is a vague notion that you once possessed something precious and it is now missing. Or perhaps that you were once possessed by someone precious and it is you that is missing. It is a twinge of homesickness, a feeling that you belong somewhere but are not there; or that you belong to someone but have lost touch. This fleeting melancholy is easily dismissed in the frenzy of the day because it does not paralyze you or cause you to break out in uncontrollable weeping. It can be evaded by turning up the radio, finding a conversation, making the phone call or searching for the perfect tomato.

But in the night, when there are no distractions, no tasks, when there is no one but yourself and all that is in you and all that is missing within you, it is then that the feeling is no longer a vague notion but a troubling and persistent void. It is then that even if you claim to know no God you have within you an empty and hungering place that you fear to name because to name it would be to know to whom it belongs and for whom it hungers. You know with fearful certainty Someone precious is missing. You almost know for whom it is you are longing. It is a lover whose face you would know if you saw it, whose name you would recognize if only you could hear someone speak it, whose heart you know is longing for you.

In perhaps such a night the night the Shepherds, wearied from the ordinariness of thousands of days walking the same hills, lay staring, like thousands of nights before, into the vast familiar sky. And in the night comes one who is unfamiliar, whose presence is at first strange and fearful. But it is an Angel and the fear breaks into wonder.

And the stars begin to sing.


From somewhere in the ordinary, familiar sky breaks forth Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim six winged, many eyed, soaring aloft on their wings singing "Hallelujah!" for into the vast ordinariness of our existence the One for whom we long has come to take a face, to have a name, to be bread to fill the hunger, to be light to shine in the darkness, to be wine that makes glad the troubled heart of man. "Hallelujah!"

There is one born who lies among the lowliest of all, unremarkable, indistinguishable from ten thousand other humans born in the same night. And yet the angels sing, Hallelujah, Glory to God in the highest!

The transcendence of the ordinary breaks forth from within the ordinary. The glimpse of eternal heaven shines forth from the mundaneness of the earth. Peace and goodwill among men is both within each and in the face of every human.

It is for this we are preparing. We prepare for the transcendent by attending more closely to the familiar and ordinary things of life, to food, to the hungering, dirty face of our neighbor that is before us every day, to our own inner longing for peace and joy. And perhaps on one ordinary day, in an ordinary place, among ordinary people there will perhaps come one who cries "Hallelujah!" and the heavens will break open and all that is ordinary around us and within us will stand up and sing in wonder and glorious unexpected joy.

I think that is why I weep when I watch this.
(For full screen video click HERE)


Dad0Seven said...

Yeah, me too...every time.

Margaret said...

So beautifully expressed, thank you! Thank you for this post and thank you for the link at the end!

David Dickens said...

This has become a little holiday tradition for me to watch the last couple of years.

I am a sucker for the great choir pieces like this and I desperately miss getting to be a part of such, something I haven't done since college.

If you love listening to angels sing, it is even more awesome to be one of the angels. :)

guy said...

Hey Steve,

i know this is off topic, but i'm hoping you can help me find a book. Once on Our Life In Christ, you mentioned a children's book about St. Nicholas. i can't remember the name of the book, nor the particular podcast episode on which you mentioned it. Do you recall?

s-p said...

Hi Guy, I vaguely remember referencing that, but that was "Lo, these many years ago..." I wish I could help, but I haven't heard most of the OLiC podcasts since the day I produced them so I have no clue what I've said. Probably a good thing... :)

Margaret said...

Hi! I don't know the book referenced on the podcast, but there is an excellent book: The Real St. Nicholas: Tales of Generosity and Hope from around the World [Paperback]
Louise Carus (Translator) available to look inside on Amazon also, "The Legend of Saint Nicholas" by Demi is the beautiful Orthodox Christian story of his life. If you look these books up on Amazon, they will give you a whole list of books on the life of St. Nicholas for children and adults. Hope this helps!