This post is part of a series reflecting on my Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Pilgrimage was a guided experience called “The Footsteps of Jesus” – every Friday, I’ll be posting a “Footsteps Friday” reflection (see index here). I look forward to your sharing your thoughts and comments.
The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is impressive – really impressive. It’s a modern marvel that combines archaeology, contemporary, art, and worship design into a majestic modern cathedral.
But that majestic edifice is not the topic of this post.
I want to tell you what happened next door.
After we went through the Basilica, we ducked out a side door, across the parking lot, and into the entrance of the Chemin Neuf Community.
I’d never heard of Chemin Neuf. I’ve since learned that they are an international charismatic movement within the Catholic church. Their focus is on Christian unity, so they welcome people of all Christian denominations into their community homes. Together, they practice shared life around the spiritual disciplines of Ignatius.
Back in 2009, when they were preparing to build a retreat center right here next to the Basilica, the Chemin Neuf community discovered ancient ruins. A team of archaeologists came in and uncovered the remains of a 1st century home. This exciting discovery gave fresh insight into daily life in Jesus’ hometown. It is quite possible, indeed likely, that a young Jesus played in and around this home with his neighbors or cousins.
The Chemin Neuf community cleverly worked the excavation into the design of the building. So there, in the entry foyer, Sister Beatrice told us all about the site. She pointed out the cisterns, cut into the rock. She showed us an oil lamp that had been found there – a souvenir from the temple in Jerusalem.
As she stood on the bedrock on which the house was constructed, she recalled to our memory Jesus’ conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount, where he said that those who listened to his teaching and put it into practice were like those who built their house on the rock – the storms came and they were not moved. (Matthew 7:24-27). She continued her talk, calling us to ground our lives in Christ. While she stood upon the rocks, she pointed us to the Rock, the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.
As she drew her talk to a close, Sister Beatrice pointed out a small niche in the stone – looking like a divot about the size of a mixing bowl. This divot was cut into the floor of the house. She asked us to ponder what it might be. Then she produced a replica of a standard water jar from ancient times and slipped it into the hole. It fit perfectly. Beatrice suggested that the hole was a poignant reminder of the simple graces of ordinary daily life.
Jesus only spent a few days of his life in Jerusalem, Beatrice said. He spent 3 years in Capernaum. But for nearly 30 years, he lived in Nazareth, doing ordinary things – living, laughing, working, eating. In these unremarkable years of Jesus’s life, we get a powerful message about the dignity of the ordinary, the beauty of the small and the mundane.
“Live the big miracle of ordinary life!” She exhorted us. “With the Holy Spirit we can make miracles of our ordinary life.”
I found it an encouraging message. And so on the ordinary days when the laundry piles up and the dishes need to be done and the lawn needs to be mowed and the dog has to be walked, I remember that ordinary life is full of wonder and grace and mercy. Jesus did not consider it drudgery to live an ordinary life, so neither should I.
How about you? Where are you seeing wonder and glory in the ordinary? Let me know in the comments below. And, share this with a friend who might need some encouragement.
Now go and be a blessing.
About the Cover Image. The cover image is a photo I took of an icon in the Chemin Neuf Community’s chapel. The icon depicts Jesus, Joseph, and Mary at a meal in their home. Interestingly, the design of the icon calls to mind Andrei Rublev’s famous icon, “The Hospitality of Abraham” which depicts the Trinity as the angels that Abraham receives in Genesis 18.