I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Ordinary Time – the periods of the Catholic liturgical calendar outside of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. It seems to me that Ordinary Time is not given its due. On the surface, nothing important seems to happen during Ordinary Time. Yet, it makes up most of the year. Ordinary Time is when our “normal” lives occur. We go to work, spend time with family and friends, binge Netflix, pursue hobbies, cook meals, etc…. In short, the very things that make life meaningful happen during Ordinary Time.
The importance of Ordinary Time was brought home for me in March as we saw so much of our “normal” abruptly taken away. Everything was different and strange. Many couldn’t go to work or lost their jobs outright. Those who were able to work did it from home – or faced very real dangers as their jobs exposed them to the virus. Socializing ground to a halt. We stayed in. Things we once took for granted, such as grocery shopping, became far more complicated, and even risky. We couldn’t see family or friends who didn’t live with us. Haircuts were out so we all got used to looking very, very shaggy.
For many of us, our prayer and spiritual lives were no longer ordinary, either. We couldn’t gather in person and had to get used to attending virtual services. Bible study and prayer groups moved online, too, and we all got very good at using Zoom.
Throughout those extraordinary months of rapid change, I kept wondering when things were going to get back to normal. I would scan news articles and social media for even the slightest indication that COVID-19 was going to be short lived and the current situation would soon pass. What I was doing, I think, was yearning for Ordinary Time.
Well, things are still very different. And, I’ve gotten used to this “new normal” and how life is now. It’s been difficult and challenging, but also a wake-up call to just how much I depended on Ordinary Time to be, well, ordinary.
I now realize I took being able to get up every day and enter into my life’s routines and rhythms very much for granted. I thought nothing of doing what I wanted and going where I pleased. Those were very much the blessings of my life, and far from ordinary. Looking back, I just can’t believe how blind I was to all that daily richness.
And, of course, I was oblivious to the privilege of having an ordinary life. Of not facing the roadblocks that others deal with on a daily basis. Ordinary Time is, in fact, a struggle for far too many of my fellow humans. That’s something I’m trying to get better at understanding, mostly by listening more and paying attention.
In fact, that’s a spiritual practice I intend to continue, through this strange time and out into what comes next. I’m going to value Ordinary Time a whole lot more and see it for the blessing and privilege that it is.
I can’t do much about what happens with the pandemic, but I can pay attention to what it has revealed. Both in terms of my own life and also the world as a whole. COVID-19 has illuminated where we all must change -- and an intentional awareness of that might be a step towards creating a “new normal” that is better and far more equitable than what we had before.
Kevin Aschenbrenner is a Victoria-based writer, poet and communications professional. He holds an M.A. in Culture and Spirituality from the Sophia Center at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. He blogs at www.dearpopefrancis.ca.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, June 13th 2020