Welcome to Ordinary Time! Or is it? Should it be?
By Jody Cramsie
Ordinary Time in the Christian church comprises the weeks between Christmas and Lent and between Easter and Advent.
Ordinary usually means: Nothing special, humdrum, normal, usual, commonplace, standard, expected in the normal course/order of events. But these weeks are “ordered” by numbering them ordinally. They constitute the largest blocks of time in the Christian liturgical calendar.
“Ordinary” also may have come from the Sanskrit, meaning to rise up, be stirred up, to grow. Hence, Ordinary Time is an opportunity to allow faith to grow outside of the special festivals, marking time with Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. For some it is a time to go deeper into their religious faith and determine how that could and should manifest during the “ordinary” days of our lives.
In the secular world, many people are now feeling a sense of “ordinary time.” Whether you celebrate the recent holidays from a religious standpoint or from cultural observance, the weeks of the holidays are full of added energy and excitement, bling-y decorations, special music, extra lights, festive gatherings, gift-giving, special drinks and foods and treats and sweets. It can be an overwhelming time for many – a real overload for the central nervous system.
As a result, for some people the entry into ordinary time can be a bit of post-holiday letdown. I’ve experienced that in the past. But this year, the ordinary time following the holidays has been filled with a calm, a sense of ease, a slowing of my mind and emotions, a time for more simplicity and reflection after the up-tempo of the previous weeks.
And nothing has come to symbolize that more than my undecorated Christmas tree with nothing but a few white twinkle lights. No more glass and shiny ornaments. No more objects that create wonderful but mind-filling memories. It is just the evergreen tree with some white lights – the classic symbol of bringing in the green (even the ancient Egyptians did that) and light during the darkest days of winter. I’ve left it up this year in this more austere iteration. I think it may be my new holiday/post-holiday tradition.
I’ve been given the gift of quiet time, to pause, and think about what this current ordinary time looks like and means to me, especially as I go forward and decide what should be manifested in my life. For instance:
- The winter weather is here with all of its predictability of shoveling, and the unpredictability of climate patterns. I’m not really ok with that.
- We are entering Year Three of Covid. Our lives have not returned to much that we would have described as ordinary in 2019. Businesses aren’t running smoothly, people are getting sick despite vaccine availability, ease of testing and moving about safely isn’t happening, new variants are popping up before we are done dealing with the prior variant. This has become our new “ordinary.” I am not OK with that.
- Certain people in public life are re-writing history – literally – for their own selfish purposes. They are preying upon people who trust what they are being told. They are gas-lighting the rest of the population. They are undermining the very meaning of America. And they are putting the future of millions of people around the world at risk. This is accepted as business as usual, as ordinary behavior. I am not OK with that.
- Loving relationships and dearly treasured friendships have withstood twin tests of division and separation over the last several years. We are hanging on for each other, and with each other. I am not only OK with that; I could not be more grateful for that.
- My family has been fine through these uncertain and extraordinary times. Nobody has gotten sick. Professional, educational and intellectual pursuits and even some lifelong goals (retirement!) have been pursued with more or less success. The constancy and persistence required has been inspiring. I am for sure OK with that.
Making my way through this current version of ordinary time, I wonder what’s next. I wonder what I can do to cement those positive items into my life in ordinary time. I wonder what I can do to affect changes to the situations that have become ordinary and normal, but should not be. Where should I rise up? Where and how should I grow? I don’t have the answers for myself yet, and I don’t have the answers for anyone else. Those answers are unique to each person as they make sense of their ordinary times.
But I hope I’m guided by the words of the great theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr:
“Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”
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