As Ordinary Time is the final season in the Liturgical Calendar, this will be Katie Jensen’s final post as our Liturgical Guide. Be sure to leave a comment to tell her how her posts have impacted your journey over the seasons, and read the rest of Katie’s posts as Liturgical Guide here. Thanks for joining us, Katie! -Lacy
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
-William Carlos Williams
It is Ordinary Time that has taught me the truth and value of this poem by William Carlos Williams. Indeed, so much depends on the red wheelbarrows and the white chickens in our lives. It is Ordinary Time that invites us to recognize this—to sink deeply into the invitation and gift of the everyday.
Ordinary Time is two long, designated seasons that do not align with a single event in Jesus’ life, but are rightly the in-between spaces where life goes on as normal and where we can contemplate and integrate what the other liturgical seasons have invited us toward.
The first Ordinary Time usually is celebrated after Epiphany in January (though some people continue the celebration of Epiphany all the way till Lent). The second and longer season of Ordinary Time is after the feast of Pentecost through to the end of the liturgical year when Advent starts again in late Fall.
Before becoming acquainted with the church calendar just a few years ago, I had never imagined that the Ordinary was something to be attended to and celebrated. But I have found that it is in the Ordinary—in the rhythms and cycles of our daily lives—that our true formation happens.
Author Joan Chittister, in her book The Liturgical Year, explains, “Ordinary Time reminds us that contemplation is the center of the Christian life. It is the place where the mind of Christ and our own come to know one another, where we integrate our concerns in this world by attuning them to the next.”
In Jewish custom, it is believed that the regular—or ordinary—most shapes us. Thus they ignore a yearly holiday if it falls on a Sabbath, because the weekly celebration trumps the yearly. Perhaps it is the everyday—the ordinary moments and experiences—that shape me more than the unusual, traumatic, or euphoric ones. But learning to pay attention to the Ordinary is no small feat; it is a quiet one, a daily one.
Kathleen Norris, author of The Quotidian Mysteries, writes, “We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were.”
It is what is directly around me—the birds chirping, the smell of coffee, the trees outside my window, the dirty dishes in my sink—that ends up grounding me in the world and in myself.
Yet these are rarely the things I pay attention to.
I’m always thinking about my “To Do” list, my million emails to send, my busy schedule, and my latest project to have much space to contemplate the Ordinary. Norris writes, “The danger is that we will come to feel too useful, so full of purpose and the necessity of fulfilling obligations that we lose sight of God’s play with creation, and with ourselves.”
Though the Ordinary can often feel monotonous, irritating, and apathetic, in truth it holds the key to our salvation, the coming to fullness of life.
PRACTICES FOR ORDINARY TIME
1. keep track of your resources
Particularly your calendar and bank account. Where are your resources going? What does that say about how you are being formed and shaped in the world? Pay attention to discrepancies between how you are living in the world and how you want to be.
2. don’t multi-task
When I’m doing the dishes or laundry or other household chores, I feel so much more productive if I’m doing something else at the same time—talking on the phone, listening to an audiobook, etc. Try to pay attention to these daily tasks and bless them for their own sake. The ancient Celtic Christians had a prayer to say while doing each chore around the house. Here are some examples.
3. come back to your senses
Take some time each day to pay attention to what’s around you. What sounds do you hear from your living room? What smells do you notice on your walk to work? What new flowers do you see blooming in your neighbor’s garden?
These ordinary, everyday things are shaping you too—the view from your window, the people at the grocery store, the feel of the air—these things are forming you, whether you are aware of them or not. Try paying attention to them and see how they impact and invite you.
How could you shape your everyday ordinary life in a way that builds and honors the kind of person you are hoping to be in the world?