“God’s banners are o’er us, His light goes before us, a pillar of fire shining forth in the night. His law he enforces, the stars in their courses and sun in its orbit obediently shine; the hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains, the deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.” Katherine Davis
Every year on January 6, Orthodox Christians ascend to an elevation of 11,312 feet to Monarch Pass and bless the continental divide. There they build an altar of snow on which rests the very presence of God. That altar and much of the snowfield of the Alpine tundra melts in the time of Easter. Into the Gunnison, Arkansas, Columbia, Big Thompson, Colorado, and Missouri water flows until it is spilled out into the Atlantic and Pacific to encircle the earth.
By the time we get to what we call Ordinary time, the melted water of the snow altar and the blessed glacial melt must have travelled very far. At a rest stop in Kansas or Montana or wherever, we do not think of it, but as we fill our Nalgenes we are filling them with holy water and on our travels through mountains and valleys our sustenance is the meals we bless and the water that a richly dressed priest has already marked with the bold sign of the cross.
This is why we must go out there.
Now every child should see Florida’s magical castle and cast of characters. Newlyweds must have their “small rooms that become an everywhere.” Rural dwellers should marvel at the massive towers of the great cities. The daring should cross something off their bucket list. But everyone regardless of age or situation should know pilgrimage.
How sad never to see the snow caps that look like pillars of clouds or see the lightning flash over the interstate as a pillar of fire and hearing thunder that is nothing less than creation’s prayer. How sad not to cross our own Nile or climb our Mt. Sinai. If we have never wandered in the wilderness, we have missed much.
It is the time of year that is called Ordinary. But what is the ordinary? To the unbelieving heart, the priests laid ordinary and finite things on their altar of snow. To those who know better, the extraordinary and infinite were laid there and the place where they lay has now travelled the great earth.
There are ordinary things out there we need to see. There are trees with new leaves and floral carpets climbing the mountainsides. Inside their ordinary leaves and petals is the extraordinary gift of new life. There are creatures ambling about with their newborn to remind us of the same. God loves these ordinary things with an extraordinary love. In the eyes of God, they are beautiful and how sad should they not be the same for us. But as beautiful as they are, there is in God’s eyes that which is more beautiful still. They are the ones God loves more than all the others; they are the ones that God gave all these beautiful and extraordinary things to.
It is ordinary time, a time to go out into the world and see extraordinary things.