We are in Ordinary Time. Did you know? To be precise, we are in the 29th week of Ordinary Time. Perhaps this phrase conjures images of Madeleine L'Engle's young heroine Meg and tesseracts, or perhaps it reminds you of Seattle's notorious slick-wet grey days and how indeed, they have returned-in all their ordinary Northwestness-for months to come. Ordinary Time is actually a season within the Christian liturgical calendar; this English name translates the Latin term Tempus per annum (literally "time through the year"). This time (and there are two) bookends the Christian holy periods of the weeks following Christmas and Lent, and Pentecost and Advent.
While I have grown to truly appreciate the rhythms of the church calendar, I am just a wee bit frustrated with the word association of our current season. Hum-drum and run-of-the-mill are two words that come to mind; they certainly don't sparkle and bellow with bright lights. This phrase seems to denote days that are some how lesser-than, weeks that begin to lose themselves in count beyond 20. When we are told that we are in the 29th week of Ordinary Time, one can almost hear a collective sigh of consternation, "*sigh* Really?! Still just in Ordinary Time?! When will it be Christmas?!" And how can we not long for these stand-apart sacred seasons when their semblances are splashed all over shopping malls and online retail markets as early as late September? The holidays, Christmas, winter break, all seem to be calling out to us from glossy catalog covers to long for their festive, fun-filled days.
Far from ordinary, I prefer to consider this current season a time of quiet and happened-upon blessings. A period when we are challenged to look for the divine in our day-to-day, mundane activities. There are extraordinary things going on all around us, all the time! Do we have the eyes to see? Do we have the ears to hear? A public charge from Jesus, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, says it this way:
Ordinary Time is a God-season, just as much as the holy days of Christmas and Easter are. Look to the signs that are all around you. They won't be covered in Christmas lights or available for purchase from the store. Look to your immediate places, your normal pathways; the plants, people and publications that surround your life could be whispering their own important inspirations for how to find meaning and truth as time passes through the year.
Following are three significant blessings that came my way this week; they were excellent reminders that my seemingly mundane days are filled with the extraordinary!
Blessing of Abundance
Times are financially tight in our household. These seasons of restraint challenge us to make-do with the abundance we already have readily available at home. This week, in particular, there weren't even quarters to spare on healthy greens to augment our dinner. I've taken to simply watching my garden from the inside kitchen windows as the rains and damp cold have taken their grip on our city. However, I remembered that my now grey and nodding sunflowers were planted over my rainbow chard...I grabbed my rain boots and coat and quickly left the kitchen through the back door to examine the gifts at the feet of my dear sunflowers.
Indeed, in these dark and interior-living days, my rainbow chard had shot up more lovely stalks, a challenging statement of bright and vibrant color to the ordinary, clouded Seattle weather. We feasted well that night. We were blessed.
Blessing of Life
This week we celebrated the seventh year of my first born son. We lit seven candles representing each year of his life; each lit candle corresponding to a memory of that particular year. We noted that with each year of life, the candlelight became brighter and brighter. So too should it be with our lives. With every year of life, every experience lived through, adventure had, wisdom won, we too should be shining all the brighter. Our lives become beacons of light for those who are in dark places, for we are given Light/Life to give it away. Furthermore, our task is to perceive the Light in which all exists, and to live from that perception. Our luminescence can be cleared and become brighter when we go through challenging times as well; tears of sorrow for our callousness towards ourselves, others and the earth allow us to behold one another (and the universe!) as a sacred whole.
We delighted in the candle light on our son's birthday evening. We are blessed by the light of his life and the reminder to be light to others all the time!
Blessing of Story
A couple weeks ago, we began reading E.B.White's Charlotte's Webwith our boys. Being the city-kids that they are, this 1952 classic took a bit of warming up time. However, by Chapter 10--what with rope swings and exploding rotten eggs--the boys were hooked. More importantly, their hearts were hooked. Through this tale of adventurous friendship, they have been reminded that relationship is risky; connections with others call you to give of your life and energy on behalf of each other, no matter what. This is what living life together means. Because we are in one another's life, we choose to risk: we risk our time, resources and energy for the sake of someone else. Why? Quite simply, I believe it is because of Love. The essentials of life, of which friendship most definitely is, can always be boiled down to the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself. The web that weaves all of us together-including the miraculous web that entwines Wilbur the pig, Charlotte the spider and Templeton the rat-is one based in Love and expressed in relationship.
I hugged my boys all the tighter after we finished the book this week. As tears streamed down their young, fresh cheeks (and mine as well, to be honest), we talked about what it means to be a friend, and concluded that it is the most precious thing to be.
"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what't a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little bit of that." (Charlotte's Web, E.B.White)