Extraordinary

Extraordinary

This weekend, my family travelled to San Diego to take part in my brother-in-law’s wedding. We already adored his fiancee, but it certainly didn’t hurt that they chose to have the wedding where she grew up just a few minutes from the beach. We built sandcastles, listened to sea lions bark, and soaked up every moment of the gorgeous summer weather. My apologies to all of you left suffering here in the heat.

Of course, we weren’t just there for fun and sun; we were there to be a part of the wedding. And the wedding was beautiful, just absolutely beautiful. I wrote a few weeks ago about the ‘ordinariness’ of ordinary time. But being at the wedding and seeing the love shared by a new husband and wife and watching it reflect onto everyone in attendance, I was reminded of the ‘extraordinariness’ of some moments.

Moments like this are ‘ecstatic’—they draw us out of ourselves and we see with a new perspective. But they aren’t purely spiritual moments. On the contrary, it’s the way that spiritual revelation intrudes in the midst of the physical that makes these glimpses so special. Often, moments like this are charged with symbol and metaphor that ignite our imaginations and give form and voice to a reality we’d only vaguely sensed before. For me at the wedding, it was the beauty of the bride in her white dress, the honest tears that ran down my brother-in-law’s cheeks, the rings placed on one another’s hands, and the gathered crowd’s palpable love.

In church-y language, we call these moments sacramental. They are moments lifted up out of the everyday and set on another plane, one that is mysterious and wonderful. We see these primarily in the two sacraments Jesus set in place for the church: communion and baptism. In these particular acts, we catch a glimpse of the grace and love of God in a way that our ordinary life simply cannot see. Throughout history, the church has recognized other sacraments as well, such as weddings, confessions, and ordinations that uniquely ring with divine truth.

These moments aren’t emotional manipulations. They aren’t manufactured. At the same time, they aren’t accidental. Because it takes some intentionality for us to be raised up out of the ordinary and set where we can see and feel something new. Consider all the planning that goes into a wedding. Consider the care and thoughtfulness that goes into our liturgies for communion and baptism.

This week, I want to encourage you to take a step or two away from your ordinary. Find a sacramental moment that’s just off the beaten path of your day. Maybe you and your spouse could prepare a fancy meal together after the kids go to sleep. Maybe you could set aside an hour for imaginative play with your young ones. Maybe you could go to a park or nature preserve and go for a long walk among trees.

Whatever you do, I encourage you to practice seeking sacramental moments. We were made for wonder, but too often we stop looking. We are faced with mundane distractions that casually reinforce in our souls the lie that all that really matters is what is right here in front of us. But if we become attuned to a beauty that lies beyond our sight, we become evangelists more equipped to announce the good news of God’s Kingdom to others.