On a visit to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania last week, my husband and our younger son bought combo passes to ride the historic Strasburg Railroad and visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania next door. From the train, the views of the verdant farmland were spectacular. (Above is one I took with my iPad.) Still, the two most powerful moments of the visit came when I least expected them.
And then on Thursday, I was sitting in our family minivan in the Target parking lot off Route 30 while my husband and son went shopping for some toiletries we had forgotten. I was playing a game on my iPad when I heard a clip-clop-clip sound. I looked up to see horses pulling a buggy through a covered bridge, past the Panera Restaurant, and around the corner to a farm next door to Target. Just like that. It was a moment that provoked me into thinking about how Christ nudges us into a deeper awareness.
The second moment was longer than the first. It happened on Friday, as we were waiting to board the Strasburg train. I became fascinated by a man installing a wrought iron fence on the property. He didn't have an especially attractive face; and his clothes - dark green shirt, suspenders and brown pants - were not well fitting. His hair was bowl shaped and his beard was graying. The truck beside him, which bore the name of a custom metal manufacturer, told me he was Mennonite.
Something was so intense, so quiet and focused about the way he went about his business while the tourists rushed past, smelling of sun tan lotion and sweat. When we returned from our ride nearly an hour later, the metal worker was still there, talking quietly with his crew. Still later, after my family had refreshed ourselves with some bottled water, I saw him eating lunch next to his truck with two of his workers.
The "plain people," the Amish and Mennonites, share the belief that religion is not something reserved for Sundays, but should inform their whole lives. The sects arose in Europe in the 1500s as a reaction to the perceived corruption of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation.
As a Christian, it's easy for me to reserve Christ for church, for my prayer time, for my parish friends who share my way of thinking and praying.
But Christ does not limit Himself, does He? He is irreducible.
He disregards the boundaries of place, or space or time. Christ bursts into our lives, much as the horses trotting interrupted my game if Bejeweled Blitz. Christ is a presence amid the hurly burly of life. He is in every moment of our lives, not separate or apart. We don't need to seek Him, He is, as my friend John told me the other night at School of Community, as present to us as He was when He was in His mother's womb. He's not separate or apart.
Consider how the metal worker persisted in his focus, on his gaze upon his work, whether anyone acknowledged him or not. This, it seems to me, is the way we need to gaze upon the Mystery that called us into being. To understand there is a whole other dimension of reality within the one we are living.
And yet: how can we know Him? How can we fix our gaze upon Him?
I am reminded, once again, of what Father Luigi Giussani says about how best to know God: be human.
Be human, live your humanity as aspirations, as sensitivity to problems, and risks to face; live your humanity as faithfulness to what urges within your soul, that God makes urge within your soul from its very origin; and this way–according to your question–reality will present itself to your eyes in a true way. For God to respond to me, to correspond, to satisfy, I need to be what He created me to be.
And so, I came home from Lancaster County blessed by those moments, the unexpected encounters, grateful for the reminder that Christ infuses our lives.