05 November 2010

Ordinary time

Back in the twenty years I spent bound up in parish life I used the calendar of the church year, or the liturgical calendar, almost as much as I used the daily/weekly/monthly/yearly one I carried. There is a rhythm to the church year, seasons of intensity and seasons that are less intense.

It is one of those less intense seasons that is the longest -- running from the Feast of Pentecost (about Memorial Day) to the beginning of Advent (shortly after Thanksgiving). Interesting is the fact that the liturgical color (that is, the color of the fabric hangings in the church's worship space and of the priest's garb) is green. Also, interesting? That long season is called "ordinary" time.

Green, the theologians say, helps the faithful remember that they are in a period of time dedicated to learning about the church and focused on spiritual growth, as opposed to celebrating the singular events of Jesus' life, the birth, death, resurrection, ascension. The scripture the church hears during ordinary time is about Jesus' life, how he worked in the world, what he did, who he talked to and what he said. That is, the getting up, the going through the day, the retiring for the night and the doing it all again the next day. Yup, Jesus did that, too.

Of course, the church doesn't have the corner on ordinary time. We all have ordinary time in our lives. In fact, just as it is for the church's liturgical calendar, we have more ordinary time in our lives -- the day-in-day-out stuff -- than we do special occasions -- birthdays, anniversaries, vacations.

Today was a wonderful day for me; it was comprised totally of ordinary time. Laundry, cleaning house, picking up a commissioned wedding gift from a favorite artisan (Jane Bess, an Edgefield potter), getting a few things from the grocery store, lunch for Tal after a round of golf, playing ball with and delivering treats to Whitby and Belle, checking and responding to email, planning supper. Just ordinary tasks, ordinary tasks that constitute supremely satisfying work. Like ordinary time in the church, our personal ordinary time is truly the stuff of life and provides us the time and space to work out who we are, what we're going to do, how we are going to spend our minutes and days -- our lives.

At the end of the day, at the end of one of these ordinary days, we can know we have, if nothing else, kept it together somehow, that, barring disaster (not ordinary time, by the way), tomorrow will come. How we handle ordinary time matters. It's what provides the foundation for the extraordinary -- both to deal with it when it comes and to process it after the fact.

Ordinary time is real life. I have loved this day.

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