Yes to the Ordinary

by Caryll Houselander

I think the most moving fact in the whole history of mankind is that wherever the Holy Spirit has desired to renew the face of the earth, he has chosen to do so through communion with some humble little human creature.

In the instances we know of, it has not been to great or powerful people that the Spirit has come, but to the little or the frightened.

Our Lady was at the most fourteen when the angel came to her; perhaps she was younger. To what was she asked to consent?

First of all, to the descent of the Holy Spirit, to surrender her littleness to Infinite Love, and as a result to become the Mother of Christ.

It was tremendous, yet so passive.

She was not asked to do anything herself, but to let something be done to her.

She was not asked to renounce anything, but to receive an incredible gift. She was not asked to lead a special kind of life, to retire to the temple and live as a nun, to cultivate suitable virtues or claim special privileges.

She was simply to remain in the world, to go forward with her marriage to Joseph, to live the life of an artisan’s wife, just what she had planned to do when she had no idea that anything out of the ordinary would ever happen to her.

The one thing he did ask of her was the gift of her humanity. She was to give him her body and soul unconditionally, and—what in this new light would have seemed absurdly trivial to anyone but the child bride of Wisdom—she was to give her daily life. And outwardly it would not differ from the life she would have led if she had not been chosen to be the Bride of the Spirit and the Mother of God at all.

She was not even asked to live it alone with this God who was her own Being and whose Being was to be hers.

No, he asked for her ordinary life shared with Joseph. She was not to neglect her simple human tenderness, her love for an earthly man, because God was her unborn child.

On the contrary, the hands and feet, the heart, the waking, sleeping, and eating that were forming Christ were to form him in service to Joseph.

Yes. It certainly seemed that God wanted to give the world the impression that it is ordinary for him to be born of a human creature.

Well, that is a fact. God did mean it to be the ordinary thing, for it is his will that Christ shall be born in every human being’s life and not as a rule through extraordinary things, but through the ordinary daily life and the human love that people give to one another.

Our Lady said yes.

She said yes for the human race. Each of us must echo that yes for our own lives.

We are all asked if we will surrender what we are, our humanity, our flesh and blood, to the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life.

The surrender that is asked of us includes complete and absolute trust. It must be like Our Lady’s surrender, without condition and without reservation.

We shall not be asked to do more than the Mother of God. We shall not be asked to become extraordinary or set apart or to make a hard and fast rule of life or to compile a manual of mortifications or heroic resolutions. We shall not be asked to cultivate our souls like rare hot-house flowers. We shall not, most of us, even be allowed to do that.

What we shall be asked to give is our flesh and blood, our daily life—our thoughts, our service to one another, our affections and love, our words, our intellect, our waking, working, and sleeping, our ordinary joys and sorrows—to God.

To surrender all that we are, as we are, to the Spirit of Love in order that our lives may bear Christ into the world—that is what we shall be asked.

Our Lady has made this possible. Her fiat was for herself and for us, but if we want God’s will to be completed in us as it is in her, we must echo her fiat.

Excerpted from The Reed of God, (1944), Sheed and Ward, pp. 16-19, currently available in a new edition from Ave Maria Press