There is a wonderful book title, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. I haven’t opened it in a long while but occasionally the title catches my eye, causing me to smile. Certainly I can relate. Life is punctuated by joy-filled highs, standing in stark relief against the backdrop of ordinary time. We celebrated the resurrection this weekend with brass and tympani, bright Easter outfits—occasionally including bunny ears! and the triumphant shout “Alleluia! He is Risen!” The energy is palpable and the joy infectious. The Ecstasy. But then we go back into our week, our work, our life. The Laundry.
The two couldn’t be more separate. There is the sacred, and there is the rest of life, the secular. The Church, over the course of history, has sought to heighten that distinction: we have wafers instead of bread, wear special clothing and call things by funny names such that the entry becomes the narthex. And indeed, it’s hard to see the laundry as holy. But that is exactly what we are called to do. It’s the point, actually.
We celebrate Easter for fifty days, hearing throughout that time the resurrection appearances, the way Jesus kept showing up to Mary, to the disciples and those on the way. I’ve always loved those stories because it’s like Jesus is playing with his followers, “Now you see me, now you don’t!” until they get that while he isn’t with them the way he once was, he is with them still. In the garden. On the road. Having breakfast. Doing laundry. Over and over again they miss that it’s he, thinking him a gardener or a fellow traveler, until suddenly they get it, they see him where they hadn’t before, their hearts burning within them.
The message is clear. God is right here in the midst of our ordinary, everyday life—should we have eyes to see. Rather than seeing the sacred and secular as separate, sacred spaces and actions are intended to help us practice seeing the holy in the ordinary, so that we can see with the eyes of our heart how all of life is holy, sacred. So we take this water, this bread, this cup, affirming God’s presence in these ordinary things. We believe, trust, that this is true, because it isn’t something we can prove, any more than we can prove someone loves us. But we aren’t to leave it there. We are to take in that promise of the holy in the ordinary and recognize—as Mary recognized Jesus in the gardener—God’s presence in the rest of life.
It isn’t easy, at least not for me. I experience moments of ecstasy, of incredible joy and wonder, when I am resonating with the power of living and loving in the midst of ordinary life. But much of the time I don’t live there. Over and over I forget or simply can’t see the holy in the laundry. Being open to that flow, that deep down joy, is something I yearn for, and I believe that yearning comes from God. One of the primary practices that help me see the sacred in the ordinary is through the sharing of stories, hearing the stories of others and reflecting on the stories of my own life. Often the holy that was not obvious to me in the moment becomes clearer when I look for it. My prayer this Eastertide is to practice being open to glimpses of the holy in the ordinary, to expect it.
Hope to see you Sunday,