I took down the Christmas tree yesterday. There was no real thought in the decision to do it. I was simply looking at it and realized that I was ready for it to be gone. My husband thinks, as much as he hates the trappings of Christmas, that the bareness from the decorations being gone is a bit sad, but I like it. It is winter and I am ready to abide in the sparseness of it. It is time to pull out the fleece blankets and hunker down.
This time of year in the liturgical calendar is referred to as Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time consists of the weeks surrounding Lent-Easter and Advent-Christmas. Typically, there are 34 weeks of Ordinary Time throughout the year. The color for Ordinary Time is green. Don't ask me why. Maybe green was an ordinary color for the Mediterranean men who created the church calendar. Personally, I would have chosen brown. And, while Ordinary Time does not have the pomp and circumstance of Christmas and Easter, it is the time in which we live out the majority of our lives. How ironic, then, that we would call it ordinary! The early church fathers were, of course, almost a full millennium before Thornton Wilder's Our Town in which the deceased heroine is granted one more precious "ordinary" day on Earth and cries out before departing, "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?"
The truth is that the Ordinary Time in our lives is, in fact, the sacred stuff life is made up of. Kathleen Kenison, in her book The Gift of an Ordinary Day, refers to these moments as "charmed moments, all the time, in every life and in every day, if we are only awake enough to experience them when they come and wise enough to appreciate them." (pg. 224)
It is the peaceful quiet that comes in the early morning or late night hours when you can hear the gentle breathing of your spouse, your children and your pets safe under one roof. It is the time spent together around a dinner table, noisy and rambunctious as toddlers would rather play than eat, but time together, nonetheless. It is a deep breath of crisp winter air that expands the lungs and clears the head. It is a hot shower, it is the smell of warm yeast bread baking in the oven. It is time shared with friends and family to celebrate nothing except the fact that we enjoy one another's company. Our Ordinary Time is, perhaps, the most beautiful gift we are given in this life and we should live each of our "ordinary" days in gratitude for it. We need to, as Kension writes, "pay attention to what's worth caring about, to read the sacred in everyday life..." (pg. 207)
Yet beyond our gratitude for our "ordinary" days, we must learn to live each one with the purpose for which it was intended. As the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2, "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." As the majority of our lives are lived in Ordinary Time, so the majority of our work to build the kingdom of God should be done in this time as well. It's easy to be generous at Christmas time, but is it as easy in March or August? And, are not these ordinary times the times that people need the most help, love, support, care? As Christians, we need to take the gifts of our "ordinary" days and give them to those we meet along the way. They are simple gifts to give; gifts of presence, gifts of time, gifts of food, gifts of acknowledgment, gifts of comfort, gifts of encouragement, gifts of love.
Ordinary Time is our time to realize life while we live it--every, every minute--and to share that life with those around us.
Blessings and Peace,