While living in Glenrock, Wyoming, I taught an adult Sunday School class at our American Baptist Church. As part of my ritual to get in a teaching mood, I watched "Mass for Shut-Ins", aired on a Denver TV station. The brief homilies by the priest, Father John O'Connell, gave food for thought. But, I remember being intrigued by the term used for some of the Sundays in the church year: Ordinary Time, as in, "the fifth Sunday in Ordinary time." As baptists, the church year was not emphasized, but I realized that Ordinary Time consisted of those sections of the year that were not a part of the Advent season, Lent, and so forth. Ordinary Time, a neat term! That's were we spend most of our lives.
Viewed from a faith perspective, life seems to be lived in three "times". We have the high,
mountain-top experiences, the time of despair and trouble, and the rest ... well, the ordinary time.
"We all get an ordinary life. And it's good enough. ... It's good enough."
Garrison Keillor The ordinary days are those when we trudge off to a day of work, hoe the weeds in the garden, enjoy a beer in the hot sun at the baseball park watching the rubber game of a mid-August three-game series, sit in the pew the Sunday after Easter and say the liturgy, fight a winter cold that just won't go away, and enjoy the company of friends on the patio for a TGIF cookout. Not high, momentous, but definitely not those devastating times when we wonder whether we'll survive the trials. Just ordinary. No sadness in that. Ordinary is just what most of life is.
It is easy to find God in those mountain-top experiences. We feel close to God (or God seems close to us) at the big faith rally or the secluded weekend of private meditation. I know some who sign up for every mountain-top event that comes along; an ongoing series of spiritual highs seemingly necessary to keep on living in faith. (I am not putting down these highs. They are needed, and I have experienced the rejuvenation they bring.)
Surprisingly, the lows and devastating times of our life may also bring a nearness to God. Maybe it's because we so need and want to know that the healing "constant presence in time of need" is there. At these times, not only do we let down our guard to our inner selves, we beg God to enter.
But what about God in the Ordinary Times? Is God with us just at the edges of our lives?
Before founding the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola as a wounded soldier in 1521 convalesced at his home in northern Spain. He experienced healing not just for his body but also his soul. His spiritual experiences became the foundations of Ignatian spirituality: The Spiritual Exercises. Jesuit spirituality is rooted in becoming more aware of what is happening in a person's daily experience — finding God in all things. In doing so, we become more aware of God's presence in our lives and more attentive to God's desires rather than our own.
Since we live most of our days in this Ordinary Time, it seems to be an ideal place to look for God. Perhaps, if we make the effort and attune our eyes and ears to the ordinary things of life, we can find what God is like. And, maybe we can allow God to find us and learn what God would be teaching.
God does promise to be with us: in the highs, the lows, ... and in Ordinary Time.
A Disappointing Footnote (for me): Researching Ordinary Time, I learned there is nothing "ordinary" (in the usual sense) about the term. The church year's Ordinary Time is not about common, regular, mundane, or run of the mill. Ordinary Time comes from the word "ordinal" as in "ordinal numbers". From math: Cardinal numbers answer "how many?". Ordinal Numbers tell the rank, they answer "what position?" Ordinal Numbers are first, second, third, fourth, etc.
So, saying something like, "the seventh week in ordinary time", is simply a way to count weeks after an event such as Pentecost. Ordinary is a model of the ordered life of the Church. Bummer! Nothing full of meaning like my perception of Ordinary Time. (The Book of Common Prayer doesn't even use a word as neat as "ordinary"; it uses "Proper".)
Well, that number stuff may be the exact way to think of Ordinary Time. But, this is my website and my Reflections. I prefer to continue to think of Ordinary Time as those many, common, days of our lives. I like exactness; but, sometimes, in non-critical realms, one is better served by sticking with what one wants to think!