Routine Holiness

On 30 April 1993, four years after Sir Tim Berners-Lee had developed a technology to help physicists around the world share information, the European space agency CERN, where he worked, made the software public domain. Thus, what we think of as the world wide web (and less accurately, the internet) became part of geeky consciousness. It took time to become popular, but the speed at which it has developed since is astonishing β€” and that for many is the problem. We live in a world where change has become routine, and the speed of change seems ever increasing. Thanks to the web and the new communication technologies to which it has given rise, we are more than ever aware of these developments; but we still have the same intellectual and emotional power to process them all.

After a certain age, human beings are not very good at speed β€” or change, for that matter. Although we may deny the fact, we tend to be creatures of routine. From what we eat for breakfast to where we sit in church (if we go to church, of course), there is a certain predictability about us. Routine requires less effort and makes for a calmer kind of life. Those who mock it are usually much younger, not yet ready to assume the greyness of their elders; but for those of us who look at our thickening waistlines with barely a twinge of regret, there is a certain comfort in routine. It is what our life is.

I was thinking about these things, and the fact that today is May Day, the feast of St Joseph the Worker, and wondering how much routine there must have been in the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth. The regular round of work and prayer, the routines of family and village life, formed Jesus as a person, made him the man we meet in the Gospels, richly human, gloriously holy. For most of us, work and family life dictates the shape of our day, and the holiness we strive after is attained (or not) through the fidelity and generosity with which we accomplish the everyday tasks laid upon us. The element of routine is not to be despised. Just like the www.protocol, it can open us to things we never dreamed of, things into which even angels long to look. And if you are asking yourself how change itself can become routine, remember Newman’s wise observation, that the Church must be constantly changing in order to remain the same:

In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.

(Development of Christian Doctrine)


6 thoughts on “Routine Holiness”

  1. Great post. Thinking about the possibilities open to us through routine and change gives me a lot to ponder. Lots of things have come from the advent of the web. I am glad this blog is one of them.

  2. I never liked change even as a child as it always brought with it calamity to our home, still, as I grew up I often felt bored by sameness. I don’t know when the tide turned (perhaps with the increase in grey hair) but now I find same old/different day comforting, routine freeing up the mind for contemplation and prayer as I go about my day.

    • Well said, Jean. That is why I like routine – your body can be doing one thing while your mind and heart are doing something else.

      I don’t like routine though where the patteern of every day is the same. Variety brings stimulation which leads to greater engagement and creativity.

  3. This post certainly strikes a chord. Not just because of age…
    Routine can simply be comforting and easy (like being in a rut) or it can provide a structure or framework to allow us to build something wonderful.
    I will hope and pray for the latter but probably indulge in the former as well.

  4. I suspect that I’m comfortable in my routine, rut, but I’m still feeling called or challenged perhaps to something more.

    But physically, until we relocate nearer our parish, it’s a bit impracticable to do more at this time. So, time for reflection, prayer and taking joy in the domestic chores that fall my way since retirement.

    Broken by two new books received to day Mission Action Planning and Hope for the Church (connected to mission) which is where I feel called.

    Still discerning as the Vicar had a vision of my role as Parish Missioner, but Diocese then moved him before it came to fruition – so hope that next one will share that vision, or something else which used the Gifts, such as they are, for the wider church and community.

    Routine for now, but excitement about the possibilities to come πŸ™‚

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