I love poetry that speaks of the holiness of the ordinary, the sacredness of all things. We make artificial divisions between sacred and secular, between what is worthy of our awe and gratitude and what is not. This is one of the elements I love most about Benedictine spirituality. In the Rule, Benedict wrote that “all utensils and goods of the monastery” are to be treated as “sacred vessels of the altar.” (RB 31:10-11) Esther DeWaal writes that Benedictine life “simply consists in doing the ordinary things of daily life carefully and lovingly, with the attention and reverence that can make of them a way of prayers, a way to God.”
What if we were to rise each morning and give thanks for the coffee that awakens our mind and body, offer gratitude for sleep and the renewal that comes with rest. What if we bowed down before the night offerings of sacred texts our dreams have laid on the altar of our wholeness. What if each bite of food we exclaimed wonder at the ways our bodies take in nourishment, at the flavor and gift of food. Savoring oatmeal becomes an act of praise. And as we read the morning news, what if we each took a moment to gather in all the sorrow of the world into our hearts and hold it there with great love and kindness so that we might carry this awareness to all those we encounter during our day.
What if each day we could find wonder in the way sunlight hits a small patch of pine needles or heavy frost lingering outside our front door?
What if each drop of water that flows from our faucets reminded us of baptism and the new birth that is possible in each moment?
Could we walk along our path each day and find joy in the footprints and other offerings left by those who have traveled this path before us?
Tonight is the first new moon of the new year. My last month has brought an abundance of gifts. When I share my joy, it blossoms, bursts forth to elicit joy from others. Each gift is like a pomegranate seed released from its yellow pith, a vibrant and juicy seed of wonder and delight.
What if you just began by treating all the utensils in your kitchen the way you might treat the sacred vessels used on an altar? What if your life itself slowly became the altar of your thanksgiving?
-Christine Valters Paintner