As August marches quickly toward September, we find ourselves past the apex of daylight in the northern hemisphere, each day becoming slightly shorter than the last. We also find ourselves in the midst of that time in the church year called simply, “Ordinary Time.” Even if you are not part of a particularly liturgical church, you likely are aware of some of her seasons. Advent is the period of time that begins four Sundays before Christmas and during which we anticipate the coming incarnation of the Christ child. Lent is six weeks (forty days minus Sundays) leading up to Easter each year. Some of you may even be aware of Pentecost, the fifty days following Easter, culminating in the commemoration of the Holy Spirit’s descent on Peter and the Apostles. If you want a bit more of an introduction to the church year, check out this wonderful video from Christ Church Anglican:
From the end of November until the end of May the church celebrates one event after another. Then, after Pentecost, nothing. We enter into Ordinary Time, the single longest period in the church’s year. It lasts from the end of Pentecost until the beginning of Advent. Compared to the other times in the church year, it can be rather, well, dull. So how are we to survive ordinary time, much less find beauty in it?
We need to remember that most of our lives are lived in “ordinary” time. Though punctuated by celebrations and adventures and mourning, most of us spend our time in regular, ordinary rhythms. I tend to forget that in my own life. It seems like I’m always looking forward to the next exciting thing or I’m mourning the end of the last exciting thing and when I do that it robs me of the beauty of this moment right here, right now. I become restless and stir crazy. I want things to happen.
In Ordinary Time we are encouraged to wait. We become more and more aware that so much of the Christian life is about learning to wait well. Much of our culture eschews waiting. We are always looking for ways to reduce “wait time.” But this isn’t a new problem. Two of my favorite Psalms include the phrase, “wait for the Lord”:
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14).
“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5-6)
In these psalms I get a sense that the psalmist is writing about aspirational waiting, not actual waiting. The words are a reminder of the posture one ought to take. Yet often when we try to wait, we become aware of how restless we are.
If you find yourself in a place of restlessness, know that you are likely just experiencing the full weight Ordinary Time. Resist the urge to flee into some exciting, if manufactured, adventure. Instead, use this as an opportunity to “wait on the Lord.” You may find this prayer from Common Prayer to be particularly helpful:
“Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity. Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change instead of fearing it. Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me. I give you my discontent. I give you my restlessness. I give you my doubt. I give you my despair. I give you all the longings I hold inside. Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.”
Image by Carol Von Canon (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)