Heaven in ordinarie

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,…
Heaven in ordinarie,…
George Herbert, “Prayer”

 Jesus was probably very ordinary in his appearance. His hands were probably rough from his work as a carpenter. His feet were probably very dirty, walking through the dust or mud on streets that people shared with the animals. He probably sweated a lot under the hot summer sun and maybe even exuded the odor often connected with sweat.

But one day he took three disciples up on a mountain. There they saw the Godhead hidden in Jesus the human, they saw “Heaven in ordinarie.”

God was well-hidden in Jesus, though He manifested His Godhead in all that He did. But to most people he might just appear to be another Jew from Galilee.

I think that today’s Gospel (Mark 9: 2-10) reminds us that there are two temptations in our life with God.

The first is not to see the presence of God in the ordinary, in our daily life. We get so caught up in daily life that we don’t have time to go up to the mountain to pray. Or we get so used to the signs of God presence around us that we can’t see God in our midst.

But there is another temptation. Like Peter we want to stay on the mountain; we want to hold on to the peak experience. We fail tofind God in the everyday experience of our lives, full of suffering and joy, full of promises of death and resurrection,

George Herbert’s poignant description of prayer as “Heaven in ordinarie” reminds me to be attention both to heaven and to the ordinary – for God is present in both.


The English Anglican poet George Herbert died on March 1, 1633.

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