Discerning the extraordinary
In the contemporary world of media, social media and AI, its good to check whether ordinary or regular or monotonous is so-often forgotten and has given its way to the extra-ordinary or wonderful or amusing. I don't find any thing wrong with either of these categories. But life is always a balance, and if that balance is completely lost, there is a danger.
May be, I am using the wrong word pairs, ordinary — extraordinary; but hopefully readers get an idea of what I wish to convey. I have nothing against the image above, or I support that idea. But that's not the point I wish to transmit. Let's go through some examples.
- An Example from Eucharist : Catholics attend the Eucharist or the holy mass, atleast on Sundays. The bread-wine is transformed and consecrated into the sacramental presence of the body and blood of Jesus. This is an amazing miracle that happens on all Eucharists; a point to be noted is, it has nothing to do with the sanctity of the priest who presides the celebration. This is an example of an ordinary event (though it has many extraordinary dimensions, which are often hidden). Now there are many eucharistic miracles that has happened around the world. In some cases, that flesh and blood is tested scientifically too. Now this is an extra-ordinary manifestation or event. The graces are entirely the same. Now the question is whether we should seek for an extra ordinary event? Whether that experience of the extra ordinary is helping me to make the ordinary event more meaningful? I see a danger if that extra ordinary experience is pushed to some pinnacle, and if it is no way a help to appreciate and live out the ordinary event.
- Eucharist to Life : Now its very much possible that we appreciate what happens in the holy Eucharist. But then eucharist is limited to the church. Or the extra-ordinariness is only seen in what is happening in the church. Surely it is something special. But the the last meal of Jesus was also accompanied by a washing of the feet, a simple and an ordinary task. But if our eucharist in the church is not lived out (in our own unique style), there is a slight aberration.
- An experience shared by my Novice Master : Novitiate is a special time in the life of any religious (including Jesuits). They are normally formed in the spirituality of that congregation. The superior general of Jesuits (it was Pedro Arrupe at that time) had a meeting with the novice masters from around the world. So during one of the sharing session, one novice master shared about various creative and innovative activities and sessions done at his novitiate. The purpose was not to impress Arrupe; but Arrupe asked a counter question. If you are engaging them always with such extra ordinary events and activities (which is definitely good in itself ), where is the time to experience the monotonous or the not-so happening side of Jesuit life? Yes, Jesuit life or for that matter, any life is not just a collection of great creative moments; it has very simple, ordinary, normal, routine and at times, boring moments. They have to be lived too.
- A married relationship or a friendship : Successful relationships reveal that they may celebrate the extra ordinary moments of their life; but they also enjoy those moments which are outside the glamour and fashion. Interestingly the moments of the second category are much more than those extra-ordinary events. If the extra ordinary date between a couple is not helping them to renew and rejuvenate and to live and appreciate their ordinary life, that date remains an experience only for some cute pictures. If the late night parties of the friends are not helping them to share the ordinary joys and sorrows of life, I see a little trouble.
Extraordinary and exceptional are important in life. If its only masking the ordinary events of life, we can't be in that phase for long. If it's helping us to live the ordinary moments in a more fruitful ways, that is beautiful. I feel it can be a good discerning criteria with regard to those exceptional or extra ordinary events in life.