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Sacredness of All Things

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

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12 Responses

  1. Thanks for your wonderful words Suz! Reading all the way through is quite a feat! A seminary education can be really valuable for personal formation, even if you are not heading for ordination.

    Thanks Plain and Simple. I look forward to reading yours.

    Hi Bette,
    That is one of things I love so much about this way of doing all things with great love and care. Very connected to Buddhist mindfulness practices. When I cook I give thanks for the food that nourishes me and send love to those who will eat it. When I clean I am sanctifying our home, blessing it with dishrags.

    The photos above were actually taken in Tofino, so I have to admit that I don’t know the owner of that particular paw print! We haven’t been to the beach together yet, mostly because it has been so cold, but many walks in the park and around the lake already.

    You’re welcome Bette!

    Hi Zorra, I completely agree with you about needing to go through the pain. It is hard because we live in a culture that medicates every problem and yet I know that often depression does have biochemical causes. Perhaps if there was a more legitimate space to allow people to experience the depression? I know many times the small blessings have saved me.

    Blessings to you, Christine

  2. How poignant to see that Anne Sexton, who struggled with despair through so much of her life, also reveled in the ability to taste and express this sort of everyday joy. I wasn’t familiar with this poem. I try to savor the same joy, and be thankful for the miracle of a “normal” day, every day.
    Each moment of life is precious.
    I do think (re: what Juniper was mentioning above) that experiencing depression probably helps us appreciate “good days” even more. Our challenge is to face and embrace what the pain is there for and what it is to show us, not keep running from it…We can’t get past the pain without going through it, IMO. And sometimes it helps to notice the small blessings and be grateful for them when we are tired and sad, and it is an effort to do so…a “sacrifice of praise”, as it says in Hebrews.