Greetings Grace Family,
The summer solstice falls on June 21 this year and the longest day of the year marks the beginning of summer. It may feel like summer will never arrive based on a very long fall and winter and a spring that was not very springy. But, summer will come with or without hotter weather. The flipping of the calendar from May to June and the change of season has me thinking about the seasons of the church.
The day of Pentecost, which just happened on May 28, marks the end of six months of seasonal changes in the church calendar. I would not say it is fast paced but there are six seasons that begin at the end of what is called “Ordinary Time” in Church parlance. This year it spans from June 1 until November 29, or about six months of the year.
I have always found it odd that it is called ‘Ordinary Time’ for a variety of reasons. More on that later. Once we are through the longest season of the Church year, Advent begins. It is followed by, of course, Christmas. Then comes Epiphany and the time after Epiphany followed by Lent, the Three Day (otherwise known as the Triduum) and Easter which lasts 50 days.
There is a rhythm to the various seasons and the order in which the come, coinciding with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. Advent is the time of anticipation for the birth of the Savior of the world (Christmas). We ponder what the Incarnation means for us and the world as we discover with the Wise Men who the child born in Bethlehem is and will become (Epiphany). Lent has both a sense of anticipation and sel-reflection in light of the death of the One Who Came to Save Us. Easter is the time for halleluiahs and rejoicing with the heavens at the defeat of sin and death, God’s grace manifest in an empty tomb. The 50 days coincide with the amount of time it is believed that Jesus spent on earth after His resurrection and completing His earthly life with His ascension.
The seasons, to a large degree, and their respective themes mirror the rhythm of our lives though not necessarily in the same order. The dash between the date of our birth and the date of our death is representative of a life filled with happy times, sad times, times of reflection and anticipation, what we call ‘seasons of life’. For a more detailed list of those seasons read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. We also experience what can be called ‘ordinary times’ when things are well, pretty ordinary. Perhaps that is what those who labeled the seasons of the Church had in mind when they named the time after Pentecost as ordinary?
The main reason why I find the very mundane label for our longest season is I do not see anything ordinary about the mystical body of Christ otherwise known as the Church. For almost 2,000 years the Church (not the buildings but the people of God) have borne witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in ways that are anything but ordinary. If you know the story from the Gospels you know that at Jesus’ ascension he instructed His followers to go, not to a specific location, but to take His love and the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Since that time billions have come to believe in Jesus. I would call that extraordinary.
And that is really what ‘Ordinary Time’ is all about. It is about being the witnesses. It is about the going. It is about the work of the Church, not just what we do on Sunday but what we do out in the world as individuals and as the Body of Christ. We need time for the various seasons of anticipation, discovery, contemplation, rejoicing and lament that are a part of the seasons of the Church. We have six months of mostly time for self, but there should be an equal amount of time spent being the selfless witnesses we are called to be. It is an amazing balance and mix that is divinely designed to help us maximize our witness.
Perhaps it should be called ‘Extraordinary Time.”
Yours in Christ,