This column is part of our ongoing opinion commentary on faith, called Living Our Faith. Find this weeks reader question and get weekly roundups of the project in your email inbox by signing up for the Living Our Faith newsletter.
We are in the middle of Ordinary Times. Though the times, of course, are far from ordinary.
In the church calendar, the season between Pentecost and Advent is called Ordinary Time, roughly June through November. Devoid of major celebrations and the observed seasons of fasting and prayer that precede them, this stretch is the longest in the church calendar, and on its face, the most mundane. (Another shorter period of Ordinary Time occurs between Christmas and Lent).
But things are not always what they appear. As is the irony with so many aspects of Christianity, the least of these turn out to be some of the most important. Ordinary Time is not a season to simply endure or get to the other side of, with the lure of nativity scenes and Christmas trees on the other side. Rather, its a season for deep spiritual formation. The banners at the Anglican church I attend (now virtually) are changed to green during these months, signifying growth. The green season is a time to delve ever more into the Scriptures, discipleship and prayer.
I cant help but think that weve found ourselves in another sort of ordinary time, a seemingly lost season or one in between something else. We are in the dog days of summer in Texas, exhausted by COVID-19, which has gone from surprise and panic to an admittedly depressed kind of settling in, the uncertainty of the school year and flu season looming. The excitements and festivities that used to mark our weeks and months are fewer and further between. Theres a growing temptation to hunker down for the long haul, shut our eyes, wish ourselves to the other side of this.
Gone are the illusions of control by finding an extra roll of toilet paper or taking on a new home-cooked recipe. Turns out theres no magic to summertime, where the virus would dissipate and wed all get a break, even a temporary one. For many people, the year has been marked by unthinkable tragedy: lost lives, incomes and relationships; forgone funerals and weddings. Weve cycled through denial, grief, and everything in between, and still we find ourselves here.
The extraordinary has become ordinary, at least in so far as 2020 is concerned. And with that comes a delicate balance. As Christians, we are to pray fervently for the pandemic to end and for wisdom and breakthrough for our nations leaders. We are called to take action to provide relief to people in need and to love our neighbors, which means wearing a mask and social distancing. (In his now nearly 500-year old letter, reformer Martin Luther spared no words for those during the plague who refused to use good sense, caution and heed science, which he equated to recklessly tempting God.) We are to push against the season in every way possible in an attempt to shorten it, lessen it, dull its pains.
And yet while doing everything we can for the suffering to end, theres also a level of living and growing within it. How are we to live in an atomic age? C.S. Lewis wrote, I am tempted to reply: Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night. ... [Atomic bombs] may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
This is where the lessons of Ordinary Time come in, revealing an alternative to gritting-and-bearing our way through long seasons, but to live and thrive within them. This is all the more important because most of our life is spent in between the highs and lows and in a sort of ordinary time, changing diapers, putting in long hours, making dinner, cleaning up, working on relationships.
To thrive in the seemingly mundane is to develop lasting habits and rhythms, such as gratitude and prayer, that lay claim to the seemingly endless time loop. Its setting aside moments in our days around the dinner table or in the morning to say what we are thankful for. Its developing deep friendships, letting a handful of people into our inner circle and walk through life with them. Its being intentional with the patterns and rhythms that develop discipline and character that weve long put off.
Ordinary Time is a season to hang the green banner instead of wave the white flag. The pandemic is all around us, but in our best moments, we can stop ourselves from thinking of it as a lost six months or lost year a sort of purgatory and waiting it out. Rather we can see this as a period of time set aside for (painful) growth, re-anchoring to what really matters, establishing habits to persist after the trial is done. This is of course more easily said than done, requiring deep spiritual dependence, community and humility. Theres a reason why Ordinary Time cycles around each year in the church calendar. It is not learned all at once.
Oh, how we long to see the light at the end of this tunnel. And yet the discipline, the lesson of Ordinary Time, is to learn to live within the waiting, and in some mysterious way beyond our own ability, to restore it from lost time to that of growth.
Abby McCloskey is an economist and founder of McCloskey Policy LLC. She has advised multiple presidential campaigns. Website: mccloskeypolicy.com
Read more here:
- Generation Z and spiritual wellness The Famuan - Famuan - November 10th, 2020
- Pastor Paula White calls on angels from Africa and South America to bring Trump victory - USA TODAY - November 10th, 2020
- Spiritual Warriors on Behalf of Donald Trump - The Bulwark - November 10th, 2020
- COLUMN/PERSPECTIVE: The spiritual experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail - Brunswick News - November 10th, 2020
- NJAC Rededication: 1970 Revolution impacts spirituality and religion in T&T - Wired868 - November 10th, 2020
- US election 2020: Biden seeks spiritual comfort before maelstrom of 'loneliest job in the world' - Sky News - November 10th, 2020
- OPINION/SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING: Were still in this together - Wicked Local Kingston - November 10th, 2020
- Inspiration - The Abundant Power Hour 11/09 by Universal Energy | Spirituality - BlogTalkRadio - November 10th, 2020
- Spiritual teacher Sri M comes out with new collection of short stories - Times of India - November 10th, 2020
- Morality, spirituality must be at centre of discussions aimed at lasting unity - Stabroek News - November 10th, 2020
- Yes, There Is a Spiritual Side to Having a Healthy Relationship With Food | RELEVANT - RELEVANT Magazine - November 10th, 2020
- Tokayev receives head of Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan - Kazinform - November 10th, 2020
- Worldly concerns bleed into the spiritual realm | State - Southernminn.com - November 10th, 2020
- Trip to top of wind turbine offers spectacular sights and spiritual sensation - Wicked Local Plymouth - November 10th, 2020
- The strange tale of a former massage therapist turned religious leader & his 5 spiritual wives - The Independent - November 10th, 2020
- Study links daily spiritual practices to improved well-being and mental health - Baptist News Global - October 28th, 2020
- Brother Voodoo offers Marvel a chance to explore Black spirituality and acceptance - SYFY WIRE - October 28th, 2020
- Everything eco-friendly for the spiritual vibe - The New Indian Express - October 28th, 2020
- The Alchemy of Heartbreak and Hope: A Spiritual Practice for Our Time - Resilience - October 28th, 2020
- Chaplains and the role of spiritual care in Healthcare - The Laconia Daily Sun - October 28th, 2020
- As Witchcraft Surges in America, Is the Church Prepared for the Spiritual Battle? - CBN News - October 28th, 2020
- Spiritual Editorial: God Is With Us Through It All - NorthcentralPa.com - October 28th, 2020
- How this Indigenous architect designs buildings with Indigenous history and spirituality in mind - CBC.ca - October 28th, 2020
- PEARRELL: Our spiritual revival is not tied to who wins an election - Rockdale Newton Citizen - October 28th, 2020
- Amazing high school choir sings spiritual Down to the River to Pray from hotel balconies - Classic FM - October 28th, 2020
- A window on to Ram Kumars visionary and spiritual world - Financial Times - October 28th, 2020
- Are we experiencing a pandemic spiritual mutation? An approach from Kabbalah - The Times of Israel - October 28th, 2020
- Holly Courtier planned to go on spiritual journey, fast inside Zion National Park, family says - ABC 4 - October 28th, 2020
- Spiritual coaches aim to ease COVID-19, other health disparities in West Baltimore - Yahoo News - October 28th, 2020
- Indulgence for cemetery visits extended to spiritual visits and whole month of November - Aleteia EN - October 28th, 2020
- Russia is fighting coronavirus with prayers: a companion of Putins spiritual father has published a special book - Pledge Times - October 28th, 2020
- 4 Women of Color Share How Spirituality Has Helped Them Heal, Rest, and Resist - Well+Good - October 19th, 2020
- Tent revival focused on spiritual breakthrough | Religion - The Mountaineer - October 19th, 2020
- Spirituality in the second half of life - Catholic Herald - October 19th, 2020
- Hot on the healers: The best spiritual practitioners in London - Tatler - October 19th, 2020
- Spirituality: Know that you represent God when you show up - Norwich Bulletin - October 19th, 2020
- UK churches urged to wake up to spiritual abuse of LGBT people - The Guardian - October 19th, 2020
- Kangana Ranaut is all praise for grounded and spiritual Will Smith, wants Bollywood to show same keenn - Times of India - October 19th, 2020
- Coronavirus has exposed a moral and spiritual vacuum. Who will fill it? - TheArticle - October 19th, 2020
- Opinion: Love, Light, and Spiritual Bypassing | Opinion, Paganism, Perspectives, Politics, Witchcraft - The Wild Hunt - October 19th, 2020
- The Office of Religious & Spiritual Life to host eighth annual Crossroads Lecture - TCU 360 - October 19th, 2020
- The Spiritual Power of Pharoah Sanders - The Vinyl Factory - October 19th, 2020
- Mission Committee strives to improve faith and spirituality among Belles - Observer Online - October 19th, 2020
- Crossing over from spiritual world of ancestors to visual art - SowetanLIVE - October 19th, 2020
- Fight the second wave with apps for financial, spiritual and physical success - USA TODAY - October 19th, 2020
- Galway clergy pledge to run each day during Level 3 for spiritual and financial reasons - The Irish Times - October 19th, 2020
- Spiritual aspects of the climate and extinction crises - Uniontown Herald Standard - October 19th, 2020
- The Covid-19 pandemic tests everyone's spiritual wellbeing, atheists and believers alike - NBC News - September 21st, 2020
- Author Shares Journey of Spiritual Discovery and Healing in New Book - GlobeNewswire - September 21st, 2020
- Assemblies of God (USA) Official Web Site | Reaping a Spiritual Harvest - AG News - September 21st, 2020
- Autumn equinox spiritual meaning: What is the meaning behind the autumnal equinox? - Express - September 21st, 2020
- One Thing I Ask of YHWH: Humility and the Spiritual Search - jewishboston.com - September 21st, 2020
- Special Online Event: Being In The Now - A Spiritual Perspective - Patch.com - September 21st, 2020
- New priests will spark a 'spiritual pandemic' - The Catholic Weekly - September 21st, 2020
- From the Pulpit: God with us in time of spiritual warfare - The Daily Times - September 21st, 2020
- Owusu Bempah gives detailed account of how things work in the spiritual realm - GhanaWeb - September 21st, 2020
- This Life: Spiritual poverty is the real problem - Sight Magazine - September 21st, 2020
- FEC Chair Says There's No Separation of Church and State, Calls 2020 Election a 'Spiritual War' - Newsweek - September 21st, 2020
- Beatification cause opened for spiritual son of Padre Pio - Catholic News Agency - September 21st, 2020
- SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING: Find your serenity in these crazy days - Wicked Local Georgetown - September 21st, 2020
- Faith matters: Awaken the spiritual artist within | Lifestyle - thereporteronline.com - September 21st, 2020
- Leaders in Peace Building, Science, Mindfulness and Spirituality to Transmit the Experience of Peace to 40 Million People Across the Globe on... - September 21st, 2020
- Sultan Hanfareh Ali Mirah, the spiritual chief of the Afars, passed away - ethiopiaobserver.com - September 21st, 2020
- 350km from Lucknow, 'Bhagwati Van' to be the spiritual tourism hub in UP - Knocksense - September 21st, 2020
- Free the Mass! A Call to Spiritual Arms for the Right to Worship - National Catholic Register - September 21st, 2020
- A Maltese artists quest for the spiritual - Times of Malta - September 21st, 2020
- Faith Matters: We are coming into an era of spiritual awakening - New Haven Register - September 4th, 2020
- SPIRIT MATTERS: In matters of the spirit, spirituality matters - LaSalle News Tribune - September 4th, 2020
- Science And Spirituality Sing Together - Wisconsin Public Radio News - September 4th, 2020
- Guiding Light: Spirituality and morality - Free Press Journal - September 4th, 2020
- Spiritual Resiliency Trips in the Holy Land - kacc.nrmc.amedd.army.mil - September 4th, 2020
- Uzbek TV Urges Battle Against 'Spiritual Viruses' (Homosexuality And Feminism) Threatening The Nation - Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty - September 4th, 2020
- Harvest Moon spiritual meaning: What does the September Full Moon mean for you? - Express - September 4th, 2020
- Spiritually Speaking: Lets hear it for our teachers - Wicked Local Norwood - September 4th, 2020
- Cardinal Parolin says there's a spiritual harmony between Francis and Benedict XVI - La Croix International - September 4th, 2020
- 'God Has Not Left Them': Operation Blessing and Others Offer Aid and Spiritual Hope for Laura Survivors - CBN News - September 4th, 2020
- Material and spiritual acts - Daily Pioneer - September 4th, 2020
- Serving those who serve others: behavioral health and spiritualitys role to encourage resiliency - United States Army - September 4th, 2020
- Reawakening Of Pagan India And The Challenge It Can Pose To Abrahamic Worldviews: Part I - Swarajya - September 4th, 2020
- Review: Essay collection Vesper Flights reveres beauty, birds and spirituality - San Francisco Chronicle - August 31st, 2020