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On Ordinary Time
Br. Gregory Peebles, CMJ
Since the liturgical New Year celebrations that began with Christ the King (the Sunday immediately prior to Advent I), the Church’s calendar has been through several relatively brief, but emotionally intense “seasons” (as we call them): Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany, Lent, Passiontide, and Eastertide, including the Ascension and up to Pentecost.
The way that the seasons are divided and arranged creates an urgency towards a cosmic crisis in gospel form, and though it takes up to half the year to “act out” the Gospel lectionary, when we consider that it’s ~33 years of life and three years of ministry compressed into about five months, no wonder it seems to happen so fast. From cosmic judge to helpless baby, to baptismal initiation and revolutionary message to the seemingly inevitable suffering and death of the one who so briefly ago was born in such meager circumstance, it is a thrilling story that activates us at the core so that when Easter follows Passion, spiritual and emotional blocks are easier to release, and we can be renewed afresh alongside of and in participation with this profound and mysterious story.
After the drama and catharsis of Advent through Easter, one might well exasperatedly cry “What next?!” For indeed, what could follow the harrowing of hell, the opening of the way of life to all, the infusion of Christ into the very depths and heights of creation, and the ultimate gift of the Holy Spirit?!
Why, nothing of course – except everything! (Look closely and you might see a New Heaven and a New Earth!)
Ordinary time is what we call this season of Pentecost, but it’s a strange thing to call the story we live in and in which we participate “ordinary”, though it is convenient for us to take it as such due to overfamiliarity. Ordinary time, in church, in work, in life, is regularly necessary, especially after an intensity like the whiplash of the early liturgical year. We need breathing time to process the Grace we’ve received and living time to share in that grace interpersonally: to let the Holy Spirit move in relation to the present moment.
For us in life religious, this is related to what is traditionally called the vow of stability, living itself out most “ordinarily” in our regular praying of the office. We are ordinary, regular people of prayer. (Read that again, because it has a couple of meanings, and I mean all of them at the same time, and not just for people in life religious, but for all followers of Jesus.)
Not much love these days is reserved for the “ordinary”. It seems that it was generally ever thus. Even the Church is prone to emphasizing the more exalted titles of Jesus over the one he called himself: ‘the child of humanity’. Jesus, who was poor and—if we will believe the prophet Isaiah’s report—having no form or comeliness that we should think him handsome, was as ordinary as they come in every way—except for his radical idea that God’s Justice was ready to burst into bloom in the desert.
As People of Incarnation, we cherish the time we have in the body to share love, and grief, and celebration, and suffering as often as we are able in things readily available: regular bread and table wine transformed into the body of Christ in our bodies when we take his love and share it with “ordinary” things as He did with us in sharing our humanity in all its complexity. From the unstoried years in the backwaters of the Galilee, to the culmination of sacred history in the crux of space and time, it was precisely in his insistence on including everything under the cover of his reconciliation that he accomplished the unifying of heaven and earth, the sacred and the so-called profane, the “ordinary” and the miraculous—all are occasions for holy, redemptive love when we see them with the eyes of Christ.
A Holy Week of divine intensity in contrast to thirty-some years on earth of “ordinary” time. Even three years of ministry in contrast with the rest of his time on earth leaves a lot of “ordinary” time for Jesus Christ Son of God Eternally Begotten of and of One Being with the Father to whittle sticks, skip pebbles, go to weddings where he didn’t turn water into wine, or, in any number of usual ways, to hallow ordinary time. Consider also the unfathomable cosmic cycles where “nothing happened” except the Alpha and Omega witnessed their becoming and ending from smallest seed to fruit and cosmic flower. At unimaginable scale both small and great, God lovingly witnesses ordinary things in all their boring miraculousness. The opportunity to witness and encounter the miracle in ordinary things is a joy God offers to share with us if we will observe Ordinary Time.
Check It Out!
Chicago Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago, published an article on Maryville's St. Monica Recovery Home and their good work and ministry-- and features Br. Jonathan Wheat, CMJ! Read the article here.
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