We are currently in the season of the Church calendar known as Ordinary time. Ordinary time is the longest season of the Church year and it comes in two chunks. The shorter stretch of Ordinary time lasts from Epiphany until Ash Wednesday and the longer stretch lasts from Pentecost until the beginning of Advent (also the beginning of a new Church year). Ordinary time is marked by the color green and unlike other seasons of the year is not intentional preparation for or centered around an important Christian holy day like Christmas or Easter. Ordinary time is rather ordinary. The name Ordinary in association with the season of the Church calendar originally came about as a way of measuring or counting the days, as evidenced by the term ordinal. Ordinal can be defined as; of or relating to order, rank, or position. It is only more recently that the term ordinary (at least in association with the Church season) has been associated with contemporary meanings of ordinary, such as normal, usual, or not special.
The contemporary meaning of ordinary along with the lack of many important holy days can mean that people and communities don’t pay Ordinary time much attention. It becomes a period of time that we just have to get through in order to get to the next “important” season of the year. We tend to love the meaning behind, decorations, food, family and friends, worship, and overall atmosphere of times like Christmas and Easter. When lived into times like Lent and Advent can have a special meaning as we prepare for the “big” holy days of the year. Christmas reminds us of God’s coming into our midst in the vulnerable form of a human baby. Easter celebrates Jesus’ victory over sin and death in his resurrection. Pentecost reminds us that even though Jesus is no longer on earth he has sent the Holy Spirit it be God’s presence in our midst. What then, if anything, is the significance of Ordinary time outside of counting the time between the more distinct seasons and holy days of the year?
Ordinary time is not just the season of the year that we are currently living in, it is also the season of time that we are living in. The vast majority of Ordinary time is spent between Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. Pentecost comes shortly after Jesus Ascension and Advent is a time of waiting for Jesus to come, not just as a baby, but also his 2nd coming. The entirety of the Church has lived in this time and we continue to live in this time. We live between Jesus’ Ascension and his return. We live in the mission field of the Kingdom being here, but not yet. This mission field is Ordinary time.
Living in Ordinary time means that it is up to us to be the presence of Jesus in the world, just as we read the Apostles living and teaching in the book of Acts. Ordinary time is usual/normal in the way that it is the time within Chrisitan history that we live. The ordinariness of this time is also usual/normal in that God is all about using the usual, the normal, the ordinary to accomplish Divine purposes. Everytime we worship we encounter and are reminded of the ordinary things that God uses to extend extraordinary grace to us. The Sacraments are central to our worship and it is through the ordinary water, bread, and wine (or juice) that God extends grace to us. We also see the ordinary in Jesus. God chose to incarnate as a rather ordinary guy, he wasn’t rich or royal, his family was not of note, he was born to an unwed mother and a carpenter. And when he began his ministry he called ordinary people to follow him.
It is fitting that the longest season of the Church year is called Ordinary time, as God is all about using the ordinary to extend grace, show love, and fulfill divine purpose. Perhaps what could make this time of year so special is the fact that it is rather ordinary and in that ordinariness God can do extraordinary things.