I know it’s a little late, but it’s good to stop and think about the time of year we’re in (well, those of us who follow a liturgical calendar…) The multiplication of same creates a little confusion, but from the beginning of Advent until at least Pentecost we have a busy agenda: Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension and all of the rest.
But now were in a kind of limbo for many. It’s called by different names: many churches count the Sundays after Pentecost, the traditional Anglicans start with Trinity Sunday, and the Roman Catholics technically refer to this (along with some of the space between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday) as Ordinary Time. But some thought different. It was probably the objection of the senior members of the committee charged with sorting things like this out: when you get up in years, you become aware that all the time you have is a gift from God, thus there is no real “Ordinary Time.” So now Catholics refer to a “Sunday of the Year.”
But it’s still considered the “low time” of the liturgical year. For me, that was never the case. I always thought (and still do) that this time is the best time of the year.
To start with, most of it transpired when school was out. For many in Palm Beach, this was the time when many fled north to cooler climes, but we were year-round residents. Moreover, although we were certainly capable of summer travel (with near-disastrous results sometimes,) we generally stayed in town. The distractions of the school year (with frequently concomitant social problems) were absent during this time.
Second–and this is really the point of all this–the Sundays after Trinity generally presented the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus in the Scripture readings. That was challenging. For example, it’s easy to apply the story of the rich young ruler to a situation where there were nothing but around you. Looking at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus head on in Palm Beach can be a jolt. After that, it’s hard to accept Christianity as either mainstream or respectable, which explains my underlying dissatisfaction with our society in general and many of our churches in particular.
The problem with the liturgical year is that the major events are too loaded on the beginning and end of Our Lord’s life and work on this earth. Those are important, but Jesus’ central challenge to our comfort zone took place between these major events. That challenge has stuck with me ever since, and that’s why I still think that “Ordinary Time” is the best time of the year.