In the liturgical church calendar, there are two seasons of what is called “Ordinary Time”
- The first is after Epiphany, January 6. Scripture readings during this season focus on the life and ministry of Jesus and invite us into the journey and maturity of faith.
- The second is after Pentecost, which occurs 50 days after Easter. This is the longest season in the liturgical year. In this second season of Ordinary Time, we celebrate our role as the church in the ongoing life and work of Christ in the world, guided by the companionship and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The word ordinary here has two meanings.
- First, it connects to the word ordinal, which has to do with counted time. Both seasons of Ordinary Time, mark out the weeks between the seasons of the church year.
- The second meaning of ordinary relates to the contrast between the ordinary flavor of this season with the extraordinary life of the other seasons in the church year—seasons that are pinned to the lived experience of Jesus coming into and living through his time on earth before his return to heaven.
In Ordinary Time, the life of Jesus is lived through us, both individually and as the church, as we give faithful attention to our formation, devotion, ministry, and mission on a daily basis. Are we underestimating our ordinary days?
Sometimes someone will ask how my week was. And there are times when I go blank while I try to think about it. I’m grasping for something that happened that was a big deal, an event, or something with some element of excitement to it. But a lot of the time there was nothing that was unique or unusual – it was all the ordinary activities and involvement of ministry.
Most of our lives are ordinary, not terribly special or exciting. Yes there are special events from time to time: the big and exciting things of life – new babies, weddings, family vacations, or a big birthday party [do you remember those!]. Those are Instagram moments.
We get tired of monotony. Unless you are a 3 year old singing “Baby Shark” over and over again. Repetition is built into creation. While repetition has a way of blurring our days together, and can make everything feel colourless and faded. But I wonder if we are underestimating ordinary days?
God created repetition. Think about our world for a moment. Every day the sun rises and sets; every day the moon waxes or wanes; and every day these acts praise their Creator. In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton describes how the repetition of the sun’s rising might not be due to lifelessness, but due to the rush of life. He compares the repetition found in nature to a child’s enjoyment in repeating the same games and songs. He says this is because children have “fierce and free spirits”; their joy in repetition is due to excess of life, not absence. Chesterton then says,
“For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy… The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”
The act of repetition can be a thing of beauty. For example, we’re called to repeat the Lord’s Supper as a church body (1 Corinthians 11:23-25), and as we repeat this act it becomes imprinted upon us – informing us about Jesus and about ourselves. As we know from watching our children, things must be repeated if they are to be learned. So, we come again and again to the communion table – and to worship, prayer, and God’s Word – if we are to become more like Jesus.
Someday we will be more fully like God and no longer grow tired of repetition. We will have the “eternal appetite of infancy,” as Chesterton put it, and will exult in the joyful monotony of worship. We’ll cry, “Encore!” every time we worship the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins.
It’s the little things we are called to. The day in and day out. The minute by minute. It’s the little things that add up to big things. Even when those little moments can feel so monotonous. There is glory found in the mundane. I pray that we would be mindful of the Spirit’s work in these seemingly insignificant moments.