By Charles Johnston:
Why do we have a season in the Church Calendar, and it takes up a majority of the year, called Ordinary Time? Shouldn’t we want our short time on this earth to be extraordinary, and not simply ordinary?
Like everything else that the Church does, this unfortunate name has a very good reason. In Latin, the name of this time is Tempus per annum, and is translated as timeduring the year, but is usually rendered in English as Ordinary Time.The reason for this is pretty straight forward; if every day was a holiday, then no day would be a holiday; if every season was a special holiday season, then none would be. We can’t celebrate Advent all year long, or else it would lose its meaning, and the same goes for Lent, Christmastide and Eastertide.
We have to have Ordinary Time to truly appreciate the extraordinary time that is exemplified by our Feasts, Memorials, and Solemnities.
This goes for our spiritual lives too, we can’t be on constant retreat, or attending men’s (or women’s) conferences every weekend, and not just because of logistics, but because they’d lose their special, re-energizing effect.
Ordinary Time of our Lives
A friend of mine commented, after a very energizing parish retreat last year, that he finally understood Saint Peter’s desire to build a tent and dwell on the mountain top. That after such an uplifting experience, he was worried that many of the participants would long for their time on the mountain, and grow to resent the time not spent there. Having just returned from a very uplifting, and spiritually fulfilling retreat in Texas, I now know exactly what he was talking about.
For those unfamiliar with this reference, it comes from the Gospel account of the Transfiguration (for a full treatment of the Transfiguration go to this Link), when Peter beholds the Transfigured Christ he doesn’t want to leave, he asks to build a tent so they can stay.
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.
And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While this is a noble idea to build these booths or tents, because we should all want to live in the direct presence of our God, the reality is that the majority of our lives play out, not on the mountain of transfiguration, but on the plains and valleys bellow. Our lives play out in ordinary ways, and in ordinary places.
And there in lies the real beauty of Ordinary Time; Christ didn’t just sanctify the world by His death, He did so by His “Life, death, and resurrection,” as the we pray when praying the rosary.
The catechism is a great source for this sanctification of ordinary life,
CCC 517: Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:
– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
– in his word which purifies its hearers;
– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;
– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.
(See also ccc 531-534)
It’s down in the hills of Judea, and the Jordan river valley, and the rolling grassy fields around the Sea of Galilee, that Jesus done the majority of His preaching, teaching, and healing, while here on earth. It wasn’t on the mountain top.
Many times Jesus goes up the mountain to pray, and in praying He has communion with His Father. We need to make prayer an everyday, and even multiple times a day, habit in our lives; and we need to occasionally “go up the mountain” by taking a pilgrimage or going on a retreat, but when we return we have to remind ourselves of how important ordinary Time is.
We have to grow deep roots in our faith, or we’ll be like the seeds that fell on rocky soil in the parable of the sower, if our roots aren’t deep then when the scorching sun starts baking the young plants, they shriveled and died. If we have experienced a wonderful retreat, revival, pilgrimage, or any kind of supernatural experience, we have to then dig deep and Grow in Christ .
We have to bring our encounter with God from the mountain top, and carry it into our everyday lives. We can’t leave what we experienced on the mountain, Saint Peter surely remembered the transfiguration for the rest of his life, and we have to as well. If we leave it behind when we return home, then we’ll be no better off than where we started. We have to take it down to the valleys and plains, and then the next mountain top experience will be even richer than before, and we keep building upon it, also throughout our ordinary, everyday lives. Only then will we grow closer and closer to Christ.