I’m thirty days into this 365 project, posting every day this year. Honestly, I was doubtful I’d even make it this far. Nevertheless, today I couldn’t help but consider what I’ve learned after thirty days of solid wondering. If this project has taught me anything, it is that cultivating an awareness of the mystifying depths that exist under even the most seemingly mundane events (like crying five-years olds, writing classes, rush hour traffic, criticism and green beans to name a few) should not be viewed as a hobby. It is a discipline, and certainly not an easy one. Training our eyes to see beyond the workaday routine is not always pleasant, and encountering the mysteries underneath is not always as magically epiphanal as I assumed it would be.
I think most of us want at least some measure of this kind of seeing – we want to have that poet-like appreciation for a world infused with beauty and truth. However, we normally are satisfied only tapping into that sensibility on the occasional hike, day at the lake, or holiday closeness. The rest of the time, give us reality and we’ll be fine. Maintaining a constant awareness of mysterious beauty – of God at play in our here and now – sounds nice, but when you actually commit yourself to it, you find the practice of it sometimes feels like drudgery, like one more item on the daily to-do list.
This morning, the assigned Gospel passage was out of the second chapter of the Book of Luke, the story of old man Simeon and his (seemingly) chance encounter in the Jerusalem temple with Joseph, Mary and newborn Jesus. The old codger had spent many years in Jerusalem, waiting, watching, trying to maintain that deeper kind of seeing, still believing the Holy Spirit’s promise that he would not die until he had seen the messianic hope of Israel. I’m sure that when he told his family (if they were still around) about this promise, they respectfully praised his devotion to Israel’s deliverance but then rolled their eyes when his back was turned, believing their father/grandfather/great-grandfather had slipped out of awareness and into senility.
But, “moved by the Spirit,” he puttered into the temple on the exact day and at the exact time that Joseph and Mary, according to custom, were presenting their newborn baby. Suddenly, this happy young couple were standing face to face with a wrinkled geriatric with a beaming smile on his face; with dry, callused hands, he gently took drooly, drowsy Jesus from his parent’s arms and hoisted him into the air, praising God in a rasping voice choked with emotion. What was nothing more than a routine abidance of the Law for Mary and Joseph was something so much more, so much deeper, for old Simeon. In the end, all the daily drudgery of waiting and watching and hoping finally culminated in the sight of a little child, who blinked unseeing eyes back at him in the dusty half-light, unable yet to focus, but who would, as Simeon would prophesy himself, one day show the entire world how to see beyond the workaday reality into the mysterious depths of our own hearts.