On Sunday, many Christians celebrated Pentecost, the day in the Liturgical Calendar when the Holy Sprit descends to earth. It is often called the birthday of the church and is timed 50 days after Easter.
After explaining Pentecost to a friend, they followed up with question, "So, what's next?"
"Ordinary time," I replied.
"No tell me what is the time period after Pentecost is called."
"Ordinary Time!" I repeated.
And so we could have the beginning of a new version of Abbot and Costello's "Who's on first?"
But it's true: May 16th, marks the beginning of Ordinary Time, which goes from the day after Pentecost until the first day of Advent.
The confusion with the name comes in part because this is no ordinary time. Between now and November 27th, the beginning of Advent, the United States will elect a new president, the nation will continue to struggle with race, equality and gender identity issues, and poverty and violence will be contended with all over the world, from Syrian to the south side of Chicago. And between now and then, the Cubs just may win the World Series.
As a child, I grew up orientating my life around the school year calendar. When I led a non-profit, we operated on the fiscal year calendar. But now, in more recent years, the liturgical calendar has taken on new influence in my life. The year begins with Advent (the time spent preparing for Christmas), then Epiphany (the arrival of the wise men), Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent), Good Friday (the day of Christ's crucifixion), Easter (the resurrection!), Pentecost, and then Ordinary Time. Every twelve months, the arrival of Advent marks the beginning of a new year.
In a time when Christianity is identified as intolerant, the church is seen as unwelcome, and denominations fight over issues that for many of us have already been resolved, I've sought to figure out how best to walk along my spiritual journey.
While the church at times can feel a little irrelevant, many of us have found that identifying and committing to a spiritual practice is a way to live into our faith. Many of us seek out a spiritual practice that is not tied to the church structure or the church battle that will provide direction and support along the way. I have seen spiritual practices ranging from Ignatius Examine (Catholic) to participating in a Clarence Committee; others mediate through prayer, daily devotions, jogging, farming and yoga.
I have found living into the seasons of the liturgical calendar can serve as a spiritual practice. For me, it's helped provide a direction, a path, and a destination. It roots my actions and me -- moving me into something that exists outside myself and includes, but transcends, breaking bad habits and making good choices. The transformation extends and exceeds the benefits of a good new year's resolution
During Lent, I knew it was a time to give up and pause. The days between Easter and Pentecost offered me the time to reconnect with people and ideas that I had neglected.
There is a lot written about giving things up for Lent, but there's not so much about what to do between Easter and Pentecost and hardly anything specific regarding Ordinary Time.
In my search for practices on how to make this journey for the next six months, I came across Lacy Clark Ellman, who describes "10 practices to make ordinary time extraordinary."
- Turn a mundane task into a time of prayer
- Go on a personal retreat
- Make something (How about daily bread?)
- Begin a Sabbath practice
- Spend time in nature
- Settle in with a book that has the power to transform (I have a few suggestions)
- Read the Bible in a new way
- Live like a pilgrim in everyday life
- Cultivate a Morning Ritual
- Get rid of objects and commitments in your life that don't spark joy
The spiritual practice of Ordinary Time calls us to pay attention and react to our surroundings. So what am I going to pay attention in this next season of ordinary time?
- My body and what I do with it
- My family and our friends and how I am present for them
- My colleagues and co-workers and how I pay attention to them and fill my expectations with grace and not disappointment.
- My neighbors and my community and the ways I welcome and open my home and heart to them
- My culture, country and my world and the need to act and think globally so that we might face extraordinary challenges that are ahead
As we move into "ordinary time," I hope that I and others can work to remember just how extraordinary this time -- both in the calendar, and in our history -- is, and work to be present to the opportunities it provides.