I love the practice of asking for a word, allowing a word or phrase to bubble up to ponder for the new year. Words that have chosen me in the last few years include Mercy (2017), Cushion (2018), You Are Free (I needed more words that year) (2019), Carry On (2020), Truth (2021), and Consent (2022).

My 2023 Word of the Year is WONDER.

This tradition (for desert mothers and fathers) of asking for a word was a way of seeking something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime.  The “word” was often a short phrase to nourish and challenge the receiver.  A word was meant to be wrestled with and slowly grown into.

Christine Valters Painter

WONDER opens our eyes to synchronicity.

The images in a recent SoulCollage card brought forth the word WONDER, and it settled comfortably in my soul.  The title of my card, Sit A Spell, is an encouragement to be open and receptive to the wonders of the universe revealing themselves right where we are—comfortable on our perch, walking through the seasons of life, or, even, in our thoughts and imagination.

It is only with eyes open to wonder, holy surprises, and synchronicity that we experience the humbling and awesome fall to our knees. There we are uplifted by invisible forces and surrounded by angels seen and unseen. (Synchronicity and Holy Surprise)

A card I created using images gathered on retreat and from a greeting card that screamed synchronicity!

WONDER makes us fall to our knees.

After the word WONDER rested in my awareness, it was providential how many words of wisdom, poems, and quotes I came across in my reading. The wisdom begins in wonder decoration (pictured above) hangs around an olive oil bottle in my kitchen. I pass by it many times every day, but I realize I wasn’t really SEEING it. Waking up to meaningful coincidences, C.J. Jung said, “could shift our thinking so we recognize a greater wholeness in all of creation…It could precipitate a spiritual awakening.”

“Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.”

Gregory of Nyssa

WONDER is the doorway to gratitude.

“Our eyes are opened to that surprise character of the world around us the moment we wake up from taking things for granted… Surprise is the beginning of gratefulness.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

WONDER is the threshold to astonishment.

“The closest thing to God is when we say WOW!” -Brian McLaren

WONDER is an attitude of curiosity, a willingness to withhold judgment, and to be open to what happens.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our sense to grow sharper.”—W.B. Yeats

WONDER leaves room for the unexpected, for learning something new.

One only becomes wise through experience. We must remain open to learning something new, to saying “I don’t know nothin’“, to consider that there are angels seen and unseen, things not discovered.

WONDER embraces mystery.               

Lord, purge our eyes to see
Within the seed a tree,
Within the glowing egg a bird,
Within the shroud a butterfly
Till taught by such, we see
Beyond all creatures Thee.
-Christina Georgina Rossetti 

WONDER sees the everyday as sacred.

St. Benedict instructs that we “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected” (RB 31:10-11).

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return. -Mary Jean Irion

WONDER recognizes the beauty in ourselves and in the world.

WONDER is childlike attention, curiosity, and joy.

“And so it is that most people have no idea how beautiful the world is and how much magnificence is revealed in the tiniest things, in some flower, in a stone, in tree bark, or in a birch leaf. The grown-ups, going about their business and worries, and tormenting themselves with all kinds of details, gradually lose the perspective for these riches that children, when they are attentive and good, soon notice and love with their whole heart. And yet the greatest beauty would be achieved if everyone remained in this regard always like attentive and good children, simple and pious in sensitivities, and if people did not lose the capacity for taking pleasure as intensely in a birch leaf or a peacock’s feather or the wing of a hooded crow as in a mighty mountain or a splendid palace. What is small is not small in itself, just as that which is great is not great. A great and eternal beauty passes through the whole world, and it is distributed fairly over that which is small and that which is large; for in such important and essential matters, no injustice is to be found on earth.”​
— Rainer Maria Rilke​, Letters on Life 

Creative journaling with wonder.

May you awake to the mystery of being here, that you are YOU on this ordinary, yet sacred day. May your new year be filled with joy, peace, and courage. May you be who YOU really are, that your “outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul…May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.”

John O’ Donohue (excerpts from To Bless the Space Between Us)

© Jodi Blazek Gehr, Being Benedictine Blogger