I am sure that we all have had the experience of knowing someone whose very way of interacting with life has provided us with moments of astonishment! There’s the co-worker who never just gets mad but storms off yelling, the friend who doesn’t just put on clothes but sprouts clashing sartorial extravagance, the cousin who turns going on a vacation into a nine-month campaign of preparedness! In such instances I am left wondering why I am so ordinary! Most of the moments of our life are composed of the ordinary tasks of daily living like sleeping, eating, working for a living and worshiping The Divine. Have you ever felt while watching others having a good time as if you were somehow locked out of happiness, as if your life’s ordinariness precludes anything exceptional? Life however has a way of unwrapping the ordinary and ambushing us!
One morning in the monastery while we were in the church for Matins out of the corner of my eye I noticed a guest come in and sit in the back. It was only when the service ended that I as Guestmaster could turn around to go and greet him, at which moment I discovered he was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn! He and his family lived over in Cavendish, Vermont and he had been previously spotted sitting in the chapel one afternoon. That morning was not his first visit on the monastery grounds so we invited him to come in and eat breakfast with us, which he accepted!
I also came to know his wife Natalia and sons Ignat, Yermolai. Stephan as they would occasionally come and visit with us. In fact they attended my Profession Ceremony on August 6, 1980, when I accepted my vows to monastic life! They’ve sent me many signed Christmas cards which I still cherish and keep! So that morning at Matins was just another ordinary day in my ordinary monastic life until a guest walked in! How many of our ordinary moments with others might be fertile occasions of exception were we to keep the eyes of our heart open? Perhaps the happiness for which we all yearn is in front of us wrapped in ordinariness? Perhaps the ordinary is not really ordinary?