In churches that follow the liturgical calendar, the month of June ushers in what’s called “ordinary time” – the six months or so that take a break from the systematic seasonal proclamations and exhortations of the other half of the year.
The church year begins with Advent, a season that heralds the coming of the Messiah. Then comes Christmas and the celebration of the Incarnation – God made man.
Christmas is followed by Epiphany, which is all about spreading Christ’s light in the world. Lent then calls believers to penitence and self-denial as they prepare for Christ’s death on the cross, followed by his victory over the grave at Easter.
Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus and the “birthday of the church” – follows the 50 days of Easter and caps off the sequence of seasons that each cast their own unique aura and holy mystique.
But then comes … six long months of the “ordinary.” No big celebrations of divine birth. No sackcloth and ashes. No glorious shouts of “He is risen!” No tongues of fire descending on the faithful.
Just everyday life, lived in the knowledge of what all these things signify.
From June to December, the pattern in the church calendar is all about the world off the mountaintop and out of the deep valleys. It’s about sustaining faith in the sometimes hum-drum rhythms of daily living.
That can be the most difficult challenge of all. We have no trouble being aware of and grateful to God during the spiritual peaks in our lives, when blessings are abundant and obvious and God’s presence is keenly felt.
Even the dark valleys – the personal crises all of us will have at one time or another – can jolt us into an awareness of our deep yearning for and dependence on God.
It’s in the in-between spots of our lives, which is most of the time, that God may most likely be forgotten. Our everyday life, the ordinary circumstances we most often find ourselves in, don’t often lend themselves to evidence and awareness of God.
Unless we let them.
Martha Sterne, in her book, “Alive and Loose in the Ordinary,” talks of finding what she needs for her spiritual sustenance in the routine of the day’s encounters and experiences.
“So what amazes me day-in and day-out,” Sterne writes in the book’s preface, “is the what-I-need gifts that show up in the parade of the day. It seems to me that what I am seeking can often be found by looking back over my shoulder at what was a nothing moment, even an irritating moment or a boring lull or a baffling misunderstanding. Or an oddly tender encounter. What looked like a waste of time has often been for me a blessing in hiding.
“Except for once, I have never heard the voice of Jesus without some person or place in the creation doing the talking for him.”
The long stretch of “ordinary time” in our lives is just as holy as the moments of ecstasy or despair and simply awaits our attention and awareness to realize as much. The Incarnation is not just a big event, the biggest in human history; it’s a daily reality, a way of looking at the world. To know that Jesus lived among us as one of us, and speaks to us through others, is to see the common as holy.
For most of us, our lives are ordinary most of the time. If we allow it, God will find us – and we will find God – even there.
NEMS Daily Journal