Noticing the ordinary

or·di·nar·y/ˈôrdnˌerē/ Adjective: With no special or distinctive features; normal.

The Catholic liturgical tradition has long divided time in two:  There are two kinds of days in life and two periods of the year. The days were either feast days or ferial days. The year was divided into “ordinary” time and …well, “extra-ordinary” time, I guess. This second segment of the year, come to think about it, I never heard anyone name at all. It was a number of times: Advent, Lent,  the Christmas, Easter and Pentecost seasons. This kind of information may be boring stuff but it’s important stuff, too. Ordinary time, you see, was the longest period of all. It was the time when life went its long, dull way, predictable to the ultimate. Monday, we did the laundry; Tuesday, we did chapel, altar breads, and house-cleaning; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday we did it all again. More of the same. Same old, same old. Week after week, month after month, year after year.

 Every once in a while, of course, life was punctuated by a feast day with its special meals and polyphonic liturgies but, in the end, the normal, the daily predominated. As it does for all of us yet. The commute, the paperwork, the housework, the school run, eat up day after day with mind-numbing regularity. And yet, it is in “ordinary” time that the really important things happen: our children grow up, our marriages and relationships  grow older, our sense of life changes, our vision expands, our soul ripens. No doubt about it, [my father’s] prayer card was right: To lose the glory of ordinary time is to suffer the loss of the greater part of life.

Joan Chittister, Ordinary Time


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