Many communities of faith have feast days and yearly rituals that they observe. For Christian denominations that follow the liturgical calendar every year, each season has its own color, significance and traditions. The specific practices may vary greatly between sects, but the overall theme is typically similar.
The time between major events is called ordinary time in some faiths. The period consists of the weeks between Pentecost and the start of Advent, although many faith communities extend ordinary time until the start of Lent. Far from actually being ordinary, this time is often seen as a chance for growth and maturation.
The term "ordinary" seems to suggest something commonplace, but the name of this season is more likely derived from the Latin root ordinalis, which means "counted" or "numbered." Most people are used to counting their days for one reason or another, but there is a stronger intention to this season than just getting through each 24-hour period. Even in everyday life, there is a rhythm to each day that gives it the opportunity to be remarkable, if only one pays attention well enough to get the most out of it.
The most common color assigned to this season is green. Green symbolizes newness and growth, which makes it fitting for a time when the lessons learned from the life of Christ are meant to become applicable to life today. Many people of faith enjoy this season because of its intense practicality. You don't have to wait for a major life event to find meaning; you can find it at any time. No day has to be wasted.
Every season of the liturgical year offers its own practices and lessons to be learned. For example, believers who give up something for Lent do so not necessarily to change a bad habit but to experience want and develop empathy for those who routinely must do without. After the season is over, however, they usually resume the behavior they gave up. Likewise, in the Easter season, the church enjoys a long period of celebration and feasting to commemorate the resurrection of Christ and the eternal life it promises. No matter how wonderful a party is, though, at some point it must end.
Ordinary time is an opportunity for people to take the lessons learned in intense seasons and build sustainable daily habits that reflect their new understanding. In doing so, the goal is to gain a deeper understanding through sustainable action that can be incorporated into daily life rather than just observed once a year.
It's never too early to start thinking about what you want to learn during ordinary time. There are several exercises you can do at any time of the year to jumpstart the thought process:
- Breath prayers - It's always a good idea to start with prayer, but it doesn't have to be complicated. Your prayers about the next steps you should take or the direction in which your spiritual study should go can be as easy as breathing. In only the space of a breath, you can ask for guidance.
- Gratitude journal - Taking a minute every morning or night to list five things for which you are grateful can reveal where your focus already lies. If most of your lists consist of the people in your life, for example, you may consider exploring ways you can enrich your relationships when ordinary time arrives.
- Gospel analysis - Many of the stories about Jesus's life in the Bible mention him eating, praying or sleeping. When reading these stories, pay particular attention to how those parts of his life are discussed.
Just because many of the formal rituals and feasts end at Pentecost, that doesn't mean that there's nothing more to learn during ordinary time. Paying better attention can turn this long season into an extraordinary time.