This post was written by Hilary Ann Golden, MDiv. Hilary joins us in each liturgical season this year through Ordinary Time, offering insight into how we can integrate the liturgical calendar into our own journeys. -Lacy
Ordinary Time is the two-part season that makes up the vast majority of the liturgical year. The gist of Ordinary Time is exactly what it sounds like — ordinary.
The length of Ordinary Time suggests that a considerable amount our lives are spent in the mundane and commonplace moments of our days. Yes, there is the anticipation of Advent, the joy of Christmas, the sparseness of Lent, the dread of Holy Week, the ecstasy of Easter, and the drunkenness of Pentecost built into the fabric of our lives. But leading up to, in between, and following these varied experiences are many, many, many moments of ordinariness.
“Ordinary Time invites us to enact our worship in the
midst of rather tedious, unremarkable moments and spaces.”
Ordinary Time invites us to enact our worship in the midst of rather tedious, unremarkable moments and spaces. The following story is a personal account of one such moment:
A few years ago, during a particularly busy and difficult week, I found myself desperately in need of rest and escape. On a whim, I decided to drive the roughly 430 miles around the Olympic Peninsula scenic highway loop. I could hardly see some of the sights that you might describe as “scenic” as it was pouring down rain for about 9 of the 10 hours of the drive. That’s the Pacific Northwest for ya.
Partway through the trip I ended up on Ruby Beach, a small beach on the Pacific Coast within Olympic National Park. This beach has large sea stacks scattered along the shore and on this particular day the waves were crashing pretty hard. Ruby Beach is covered in large, flat, and round stones. As I was walking along the beach, I kept noticing stacks of stones on the driftwood.
I hadn’t planned very well for this little adventure. It was pouring down rain and I did not have a rain jacket or other rain gear at my disposal. After a few minutes of walking the beach, I found a sea stack that provided a bit of shelter from the brewing storm, and so I paused there for a moment. During this brief respite from the rain, I noticed the word “Israel” scratched into the wall of the sea stack.
“Here I raise mine ebenezer, hither by Thy help I come…”
I’ve always loved the imagery of that line, though I had little connection with an actual experience of raising an ebenezer.
The poetry of the hymn draws from the story of the Old Testament judge Samuel. After a rather lengthy season of disappointment and trouble, Israel received new leadership under Samuel and began to recommit themselves to their covenant with God.
Samuel placed the stone – the ebenezer – at the site where this renewal began. As the stone was placed, Samuel proclaimed, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” And so, the ebenezer has come to be known as a “stone of help” or “stone of remembrance.”
While I was finding shelter under that sea stack next to the etching of Israel and looking out into the fog rolling over the Pacific ocean, I felt compelled to make my own little stack of rocks – mine ebenezer – and leave it on the beach.
I placed the rocks, carefully balancing each until my stack stood tall on top of the large rock nearby. I went back to my dry refuge under the sea stack and remembered, “Thus far the LORD has helped me.”
I left the beach that day choosing to take with me the memories of being helped thus far: of being understood, of the many gifts I’ve been given, of the strengths that have arisen out of me, of the mercy, grace and forgiveness I’ve been shown, of the presence of God which has always been with me.
Eric Weiner wrote “You don’t plan a trip to a thin place; you stumble upon one… To some extent, thinness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Or, to put it another way: One person’s thin place is another’s thick one.”
“You don’t plan a trip to a thin place;
you stumble upon one…
To some extent, thinness, like beauty,
is in the eye of the beholder.”
Ordinary Time extends to us the opportunity to stumble upon these thin places and to embrace them for what they are: simple, sacred moments that move us and change us. Ordinary Time invites us to enact our worship in the midst of rather tedious, unremarkable moments and spaces.
What are these tedious, unremarkable moments and spaces in your life right now and how can you infuse them with intention and remembrance?