Dodge: Ordinary Time is Anything but Ordinary
Have you ever thought about what being secular means? Christians often think of something secular as something opposed to religion. So, today, we might hear people say, “He’s a secularist.” Thus, secular has become a term of derision for some Christians.
But the word secular derives from the Latin saeculum which means “century or age.” According to the philosopher Charles Taylor, secular originally involved living in “ordinary time.” It was a word used to describe those living in the world, as opposed to those who had withdrawn from the world to focus on eternal things. For example, a “secular” priest was one who had left a monastery to minister in a parish.
One of the critical things the Church helps us do is to connect our lives in the here and now (the secular) with the eternal (the sacred). The Christian life, done right, recognizes no real division between the sacred and the secular. We marry the two through common prayer, interaction with the Scriptures in the daily office, liturgy, prayers to the saints and, most important, the Eucharist. All these activities enable participation in a distinctly different reality. They also allow us to flourish as humans since we possess both temporal (flesh) and eternal (soul) elements in our very constitution.
You may not have realized it, but we live this out tangibly by following the church calendar. Have you noticed that for several weeks now, after Pentecost, the colors at the altar have switched to green? This marks an important shift in the church year toward what we call “ordinary time.” Ordinary time connects the big events in the liturgical year, in particular, Incarnation (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany) and Resurrection (Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost).
But ordinary time is anything but ordinary. Ordinary time is when we’re supposed to be taking the lessons we’ve learned about ourselves and about our Lord and use them to go out and do some good in our world. This is why the color for this season of ordinary time is green – it’s supposed to be a time of growth.
Our missioners who just returned from Honduras are the perfect example of what the authentic Christian life looks like during ordinary time (below). Informed by the teachings of Jesus, they participated in eternal realities by ministering in the here and now. They have made a difference in our world by taking what they’ve learned about Jesus and using it to help others.
How about you? What did you learn about yourself during Lent? How has Jesus’ life and ministry challenged you this year? What is His Spirit calling you to do to build his kingdom? Ordinary time is anything but ordinary because saying “yes” to the call of God in your life is always extraordinary in a world forever mired in the here and now.