Celebrate Ordinary Time? Why celebrate anything that seems to just fill in the space between Christmas and Easter?
The Sacrament of the Moment
With all of the bells and whistles associated with these two treasured times of the year, Ordinary Time might seem pale by comparison. On top of that, the “scaling back” of Ordinary Time leads us into the desert of Lent. When is the last time you heard someone say that they were going to celebrate the Lenten season? Those who do, of course, are headed in the right direction. Ideally, we should celebrate every moment of every time of year in thanksgiving to God.
With the Christmas season in recent memory, and as we anticipate Easter, let’s take a closer look at the time in between. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could continue the festive mood and excitement of the holidays? Presents play a big role in these celebrations. What could be better than giving and receiving a thoughtful gift that expresses our love for one another?
Well, if we consider the gift of our presence, we might be onto something! Every day can be an occasion to celebrate being present to others, and others blessing us with the gift of their presence. The spiritual term for celebrating the present is sometimes called the “sacrament of the moment”.
New Levels in Prayer
A visiting priest (who spoke very little English) once started a homily with this statement: “There are only two times when we meet Jesus”. After a short pause, he said, “Now and at the hour of our death.”
After Mass, I raced to the sacristy and commended him on the remarkable insight. I asked where he got that pearl of wisdom, and he replied, “The Hail Mary.” Of course! Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for sinners now and at the hour of our death.
As we delve deeper into Ordinary Time we can move from a “plain vanilla” understanding to a much more complex bouquet of flavor. There are blessings in disguise that are ours for the asking if we “stop and smell the roses.” The Lord’s Prayer can take on a new level of meaning as we pray for our daily bread. Note that Jesus said “daily” and not weekly, monthly or yearly! Praying to meet Jesus daily and for the grace to find God in all things in the sacrament of the present moment will certainly yield abundant blessings in our lives.
Ordinary Time in the Seamless Garment
In the realm of Catholicism, we have fast days and feast days in the course of the year. We also have “ordinary” days sprinkled throughout. If we look at the word ordinary as meaning fixed or regimented, we can begin to move away from the stark difference among all of the days of the liturgical year into something more like a seamless garment and less like a patchwork quilt.
Starting a new calendar year and continuing our new liturgical year can be daunting. We live in a culture that takes down Christmas decorations (if they’re up, to begin with) on December 26th if not sooner! I love to send Christmas cards the week after Christmas day and say “Merry Christmas Season”. It suits my procrastinating tendency as well as my need to enlighten and educate. The notion of celebrating Ordinary Time might be too esoteric to someone who barely acknowledges that the many days that follow December 25th are special, but to those of us that take our faith seriously it is a connection worthy of consideration.
A Fresh Batch of Hours
In God’s divine economy, and in His providence, we have each been given the exact same amount of time in a day: 24 hours. From the richest person to the poorest person, this is a great equalizer. Each day we get a fresh batch of hours to spend. If on a certain day we squander our hours, we can look forward to starting with a clean slate the next day. Ordinary days take on a new meaning in this light.
In the days leading up to Lent and Easter, let us pray for the grace and strength to celebrate life as God presents it: one day at a time, in the sacrament of the present moment. Happy Ordinary Time!