There is such a stark contrast when the Christmas season ends. The twinkling lights in the neighborhood have gone dark and trees left for recycling sit on driveways awaiting pick-up. In my parish, the poinsettias, crèche, and Advent wreath have disappeared. It’s all a reminder of entering Ordinary Time.
This time of year the season of Ordinary Time can be fairly short, depending on the end of the Christmas cycle and onset of Lent. The longer period comes after Pentecost and lasts until the first Sunday in Advent. In some ways, the term “ordinary” is unfortunate as it seems to imply that nothing extraordinary is or can happen during these weeks. The intent of the term is different, however. Derived from the word “ordinal”, meaning to count, it refers to the ordering of Sundays. The Lectionary readings focus on the ministry and teachings of Jesus, mostly from the synoptic Gospel of that particular liturgical cycle. Reading the Gospels and allowing them to touch our hearts is anything but “ordinary.”
In his book, Music of Silence, Brother David Steindl-Rast points out the origin of the word “season” and how it comes from a Latin root meaning “to sow.” Thus the seasons in a spiritual sense are times to sow something within our hearts. It’s rare that a season starts or ends on an assigned day, however. Winter, for example, arrived a whole lot earlier in most parts of the country than the day of the solstice. The best way to approach the seasons is as “qualitative experiences”, Steindl-Rast writes. “We sense a subtle difference in the quality of light, the length of daylight, the feel of the air on our skin. We know intuitively that something is happening in nature.” Viewed in this way, the season becomes a time for attentiveness to the world around us – the incremental accumulation of light each day or the beauty of a bare tree silhouetted against the sky. Given this, I am striving to pay attention to the grace of simplicity during this season. Doing so makes it not-so ordinary time.
Find ways to turn ordinary time into extraordinary time and other ideas for the season and share them with your class or family.