Resolutions, resolutely ordinary

I have listened to this gospel reading countless times. It is simple and easy to remember. And it is read in churches that are usually quiet, since many of the New Year revelers are still asleep after a long night of celebration. I like that. My life is busy enough and any bit of quiet and calm is welcomed without hesitation. The appointed reading of the Luke gospel closes as follows:

 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Reading

This pithy statement comes at the end of Old and New Testament readings with talk of holy mountains, thundering voices from the heavens, grand appointments to apostleship and singing angels. We are now left with some mundane things: a common Jewish practice, a common Jewish name, a common family affair.

A deeper, practical significance of the text never dawned on to me until this year. I had kept the Christmastide decidedly low-key. No big travel plans, no huge expenses, no big feasts or meals to attend and no elaborate decorations. At this time of year when some very firm resolutions tend to be on the minds and lips of many, I found it a most happy opportunity to sit in peace and ponder.

It turns out my thoughts needed some major reorganization. Some needed to be tossed out, others needed to be sharpened and still others needed to steep a bit more in a brew of reason and heart to produce something of worth later on.

The Practice

Barbara Mahany, author of Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door encourages us to “live sacramentally; lift even the most ordinary moments into holiness. Weave the liturgical into the everyday.” Mary, precious and highly favored as she is, I think, would agree. And so, when she and her husband Joseph have to comply with a steadfast Jewish tradition, there are no bells and smells. There are more likely cries and screams, and efforts to keep a little boy as steady as possible during a most painful procedure. But Mary “treasured them all and pondered them in her heart”

My Christmastide was filled with conversations – long as well as short—with a variety of people. Connecting, reconnecting, and deepening. Armed with a bag of scrumptious cookies one of my (many) cousins had baked I sat on porches, on the side of streets and in messy homes with all kinds of people. Someone celebrating a birthday, a chat with someone who’s had a rough year and a candid sit-down with an old friend whose religious life seems to be in turmoil.

The Reflection

It may seem like it was burdensome, but it was intensely liberating. With no pressure and rush to fill up my space with accoutrements of the season, I used my time to fill up the space of others; and found, quite unexpectedly, the adornments of the season in self-giving, in scaling back on expenses and food to have a feast of relationships and thoughts. Mahany explains: “[…] find that holy poetry in life, […] realize that it’s right here in the words our children whisper to us as we’re tucking them in, in what we see outside our kitchen door,”

So, there I was in Mass during the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord; in the sanctuary of a quaint dimly lit building, pondering the things I had experienced in a short season. I made no great resolutions, just a commitment to sifting joy and peace out of simple events. One ordinary day at a time.


Amidst the chaos this Christmas time…


Dogged determination

I’m not an outstanding teacher. Nor is anyone.

Great reflection on the woes teachers face. While the blog post and the article cited therein tackle the bureaucratic demands placed on teachers in general and the resulting fallout , it might be sensible to devote some time to practical solutions. As stated by the blogger, teachers have a mix of good and not-so-good lessons and that is a good place to start thinking on how bureaucratic mandates can change to truly allow good classroom skills– if such a word does not exists, it should. Elizabeth Green in her recent book, “Building A Better Teacher” examines just that aspect. Here is a quote from a recent interview with NPR:

“We don’t treat teaching as something that people need help learning how to do. So we say this great idea, but we just mandate it. We say, ‘Do this tomorrow and figure it out on your own.’ That is really ludicrous once you understand how complicated the science of teaching is.”


Disappointed Idealist

Guardian Link

This article appeared in the Guardian this morning. There’s much in it I agree with.

 School leaders [] have been informed that this country’s teachers are failing, and that they must take charge of a lazy and unprofessional teaching staff, leading to suspicion within our schools. [] I often found that by 9:30am (by which point I had been at school for two hours) I felt I had been reprimanded five or six times in emails to all staff, or in departmental meetings, or staff briefings – all a direct result of current education policies.

This had me nodding along, and at some point in the future I’ll probably have a full spleen vent about the adoption of Cult of The Leader enforcement nonsense by rather too many SLTs. However, this is only a quick piece, and I want to focus on this :

I am an outstanding teacher.

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