I was showing a woman around a house that she had once known well. When we came to an ordinary bedroom she stopped and looked at it with evidently deep feeling. I let her ponder it and when she realised she had shown her feelings she apologised. Then she began to explain, became a little embarrassed but eventually told me it was the room where her first child had been conceived. For her it was not an ordinary room. For me it was a moment to see something special in the ordinary, from another, and for me unusual point of view.
There’s nothing special about the 25th March except that it is the day (in scriptural time) when Jesus was conceived. We recognise this in the Feast of the Annunciation when Gabriel came to visit Mary and she gave her consent to being over-shadowed by the Holy Spirit. Nine months exactly to Christmas Day. Who is thinking about Christmas at this time of the year except marketing departments?
The days of our actual conception usually pass unremarked and perhaps (I’m not sure) cannot be exactly calculated. Yet they are undeniably important moments in our journey from the Being-mind of God, where we exist from eternity, into being terrestrial and temporal existences.
Meaning, like truth, emerges. It doesn’t just explode and land fully developed and labelled on our lap. One part of us does tend towards wanting fixed points and answers and sees meaning merely as an explanation of things. But the deeper mind knows that meaning is about connections; and the more interwoven and comprehensive the network of connections, the greater the experience of meaning. This takes time. At a business school, as the students approach graduation and look for jobs, they are busy networking. This becomes an increasingly important priority for them and it can become very stressful if they feel they aren’t making enough useful connections to launch their new career. Often I feel they are trying too hard.
A network of meaning-full connections cannot be built on one or two encounters. Trust – is like knowing someone beyond the charm (or otherwise) of their persona. It has to grow and mature. Growth is not a conceptual but organic process, dependent on the environment and the acts of God also known as accidents. Every relationship, even the most fleeting, opens us to a whole parallel universe of potential connections, which we best meet with a light touch. To try and grasp it too quickly is to damage the connection and create mistrust. So much of any intimacy that survives and grows relies upon detachment and the wisdom of the optimum distance.
Lent is characterised by the same ordinariness that made the wandering Israelites periodically so idolatrous. It is a daily lesson in the art of living from the centre outwards, from below the surface appearance of things. Meditation – which is really Lent and Easter combined – also teaches us not to dismiss the significance of a half-hour of silence in which nothing particular happens. As John Main said this actually is preferable. ‘In meditation,’ he said, ‘nothing happens and, if it does, ignore it.’ There is obviously both a paradox and a meaningful joke hidden in this enlightening remark.