Extra-Ordinary: the Rhythm of Ordinary Time
I wrote this article for my church newsletter this season. Many of you may know that I'm very much drawn to the seasons of the liturgical year, and coming to them now makes them fresh and filled with much meaning. There is nothing routine to me about celebrating each season. This also makes them a bit halting for me, a little clumsy. I'm not sure yet about what all to do or say or what the colors mean. That will come in time. What follows are some reflections on Ordinary Time. I hope you enjoy them. Since I was a little girl, I’ve gone to the park to swing when I need to think. There is something about the movement: repetitive, measured, predictable, yet exciting. I don’t have to worry, as I used to, that my swing would one day flip over the top of the swing set, taking me upside down. I know that it will continue to swing high, then low, back and forth, up and down. There is comfort in this rhythm, I can count on it. I sense this same pattern in the season of Ordinary Time.
Ordinary Time is the longest season of the liturgical year. It begins with Pentecost, when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and ends (some 5 or 6 months later) with Reign of Christ Sunday, the Sunday before Advent begins. Unlike the other seasons, it is not directly tied to an event in the life of Christ. Instead, we know the end of the story: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. We can finally celebrate all aspects of Christ’s life, and wait fervently for His return. In many ways, Ordinary Time is a season that celebrates the beginning of the Church in the world. One of the first things that I think of when I ponder the Church in the world, is tension.
Jesus spoke clearly about the tension that believers would have in the world. Following after Him goes against “common sense” sometimes, asking us to take up our cross daily, to give away our possessions and even turn our backs on our families should they attempt to stand between us and following Him. There is a tension that arises between our will and His Will. And yet, tension in our lives lead us into focus and balance. As we find equilibrium between working and resting and fasting and feasting we gain insight into how to care for the Body of Christ as well as reaching out to the world. We consider how to serve our neighbors and care for ourselves. As with so many things, we are caught in a delicate circus act, longing for Heaven and living on Earth. We must focus on what is in front of us already while keeping watchful for what is not yet. This balance, this tightrope walk, this is what I see in Ordinary Time.
I doubt that the early Church was comfortable with the Holy Spirit immediately. They had never seen this before and likely weren’t sure what He was planning on doing. Like us, they were trying to figure out what it means to follow Christ in a world with different rules than the ones we play by as Christians. Perhaps they struggled with the sacred and the secular, wondering what they should be doing now that they were so different. I use this season to ask again what God wants me to be doing, to realign my priorities with His Word and Will.
It may seem on the surface that there are not a lot of special days in Ordinary Time, but one of the beautiful things about Ordinary Time, for me, is that I learn anew that every day is special, a gift, if I just slow down and really see it. When I’m doing my dishes, playing with my friends’ children or working, I am serving God. Even these little, commonplace things take on new life when seen for what they are. If God has placed me where I am and I am being obedient to Him, then these little things that make up life are exactly what I should be doing. When given such dignity, I find it easier to smile when I have to do laundry, quiet a screaming child or vacuum under my bed. The things that I have considered ordinary and meaningless become extraordinary when I do them to honor God, with eyes that see.
God has set us here on earth as witnesses, we must see. It is our job to keep our eyes open and notice the glory of God. When I do this, I respond with awe, with praise and with joy. When others see that, they turn to see what it is I’m looking at and come face to face with God.
Some days (in Ordinary Time and outside) will feel like a feast, and others a famine. Some days will be restful and others will take everything you have, but each day is a gift from God, a part of the story in which you play a crucial part. There is nothing ordinary about that.