A Reflection for Ordinary Time
Words by Lindsey Watson
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8–9)
How do you keep track of time? We’re easily propelled through the day marking time by the rhythms of kids’ activities and nap schedules, by the cycles of preparing, eating, and cleaning up meals, even by the schedule of our favorite programs on the radio or TV. (Or maybe not—this is the age of DVR and Netflix, after all!)
When I don't actively intervene in my thought life, I am distracted all day by whatever is loud, whatever is urgent, whatever is convenient, whatever is flashy, whatever is on sale, whatever happens to be in front of my eyes. At the end of the day, I am no closer to the God of peace than I was when I began.
In my daily life, I try to follow a simple home liturgy: rhythms of reflection, confession, and thanksgiving throughout the day that help shed some eternal perspective on my frantic activity and small-scale frustrations. In the midst of math facts and spelling words, of Play-Doh on the floor and dishes in the sink, it’s imperative to set the Gospel before my mind’s eye—not just once at dawn or bedtime, but over and over throughout the day.
The idea of a liturgy is one I’ve come to appreciate only in recent years; I’ve spent most of my life in contemporary church circles that don’t really use this kind of traditional church language. But in my personal life I’ve found it to be helpful to incorporate some spiritual structure both in my daily habits as well as in the larger cycles of yearly seasons.
For most of my life I’d never even heard of “church time.” But since I’ve started learning more about the different parts of the liturgical calendar, I’ve come to appreciate the idea of spiritual rhythms on a larger scale. For me, it’s given substance to the way I think about the changing seasons.
Our seasons and holidays are defined for us by school calendars, sports seasons, tax schedules, the greeting card industry, our national celebrations, and the Farmer’s Almanac. Some days stand out as sacred because of our memories and associations—birthdays, anniversaries, memories of personal triumph or tragedy.
In the Old Testament, God gave his people yearly celebrations to help them remember their identity in relation to him. These annual events were occasions to remember (among other things) the way God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, his provision for them in the wilderness, or his deliverance of the Jews through the courage of Queen Esther.
As Christians, we recognize that we too have been rescued, sustained, and preserved—through the person and work of Jesus. Observing the seasons and holidays of the liturgical year helps us orient all of our other celebrations into the context of a story much greater than our families, our government, our shopping seasons, and our national history.
Our daily and yearly rhythms shape our affections and attentions. The calendar itself can be a way of communicating to ourselves and to our families that we find our greatest meaning in the context of Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross and by our identification with his church.
The time between Pentecost (usually in late May) and the beginning of Advent (late November/early December) is known as Ordinary Time. It’s called “ordinary” because these are counted weeks (think of “ordinal” numbers—that word comes from the same Latin root), but I still like the association with the more common definition of ordinary. These are the weeks to take all of the things you’ve learned in the special seasons and work them out in your everyday routines.
The traditional Scripture readings for the “special” seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter focus primarily on the life of Christ chronicled in the gospels. Ordinary time challenges us with the question: If Christ is who he says he is, then what? We have thirty-something weeks left in the year left to study the epistles, the historical books, the prophets, the poetry, to get a notion of how the truth of Christ plays out in all the categories of our thoughts and actions. The challenge of my home liturgy is to bring the question of Ordinary Time into my ordinary days: How does the Gospel change the way I homeschool, the way I manage money, the way I spend my free moments?
I usually have a decoration on my dining table that is a visual symbol for the liturgical season. During Ordinary Time I like to use the communion set that my husband found at a thrift store in an old church basement. It’s made up of rustic pottery pieces: a squat jug with a loose-fitting cork and two matching chalices (one of them is chipped and cracked from a run-in with a young dinner guest).
I love it because it is a symbol for both the sacred (the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper) and the everyday (eating and drinking). It reminds me of the words of Paul: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
The presence of Christ in our home sacralizes our ordinary moments and our Ordinary Time; it turns bread and wine into opportunities to remember him and his work in us and in the world. It’s also a chance to participate in that work as we look for opportunities to point others to him by words and habits that embody truth, goodness, and beauty.