After Mass on All Saint’s Day, Jacob and I went candy-shopping, because stores always mark down their Halloween candy as soon as the calendar rolls to November. We walked over to the “seasonal” aisle in Kroger, and saw that the shelves were completely empty, and instead of being decked out with orange and black, had Christmas and wintery decorations. The Halloween candy was in some shopping carts nearby, as if it was just a nuisance, something to be moved away so that Christmas could come in. My mental reaction/thought process went something like this:
1. Holy smokin’ incense, what is this? Moving in Christmas already???
2. WHY CAN’T STORES FOLLOW THE LITURGICAL SEASON?!?!?!??!?!?!
3. Even though stores don’t adhere to the liturgical season, Catholics should definitely live up the liturgical season more!
4. Then I had this little image of Ordinary Time jumping up and down (I’m really not sure how it was personified, it was a bit weird), shouting, “Hey! World, I’m still here!”
I love the liturgical year. Easter Triduum is my favorite liturgical season, followed by Easter & Lent, and then Advent & Christmas. Oh yeah…and Ordinary Time. You know, I underappreciate Ordinary Time, and I think a lot of other people do, as well. Ordinary readings, ordinary vestments, nothing crazy happening, just the same thing every day. Or at least, that’s what it can seem like. It’s not like you’re pumping yourself up for Christmas, or in hardcore penance mode before Easter. It’s just…ordinary!
But as I’ve researched into Ordinary Time more, and prayed about it, I’ve grown to love it more and more. First off, “Ordinary Time” is not the equivalent of “Boring/Standard/Normal Time.” See, “Ordinary” comes from the Latin word ordo, ordinis, which means order, rank, line. Ordinary Time is a season of ordered days outside of any other liturgical season.
Furthermore, there is nothing boring about it! Ordinary Time is crammed full of epic saints, feasts, solemnities, and overall awesomeness. I mean, the Assumption of Mary is a solemnity and a Holy Day of Obligation—kind of a big deal—and it happens in Ordinary Time. What about the Solemnity of All Saints, which we celebrated the other day? Also fully awesome, and in Ordinary Time as well. Priests wear green during Ordinary Time, a color denoting hope and new life.
I found this really awesome quotation from Deacon Tom Frankenfield at Integrated Catholic Life:
"Ordinary Time is a time of quiet hope – a lush green meadow of hope. As you know, the Liturgical color for Ordinary Time is the color of hope-green. It is a change from powerful “mountain top” liturgical experiences in Christmas and Easter and “deep valleys” during Advent and Lent. Now we are asked to encounter the Lord in the lush green meadow of our lives."
Ordinary Time is a season for us to reflect on how God has been working on us, and how we can better live out the call to Christian discipleship. And I don’t know about you, but for me, that will more than the 33 or 34 weeks of Ordinary Time to figure it out.
My Suggestions for Living the Liturgical Year:
Live in the Present: this year, it seems like the stores are in hyper-drive. I have a friend who went to the mall on November 1, and Christmas decorations and music were all going. I’ve had several other friends go to the store only to see a plethora of Christmas decorations and hear Christmas music blasting on the store speakers. But there’s a problem with throwing yourself so wholeheartedly into the atmosphere of very-future holidays (Christmas and Easter are some big ones). If you are living far in the future, you are making yourself less present to the beauty in the current liturgical season! There is more than enough time to prepare for Christmas during the time of Advent (or at the very least, after Thanksgiving. Though I understand now is a prime time to start on Christmas shopping—but Christmas shopping does not mean “Christmas atmosphere everywhere.”).
Celebrate the Saints: I think one of the reasons Ordinary Time can seem mundane is when we forget about the saints. But really, the saints are amazing, and celebrating their lives, legacies, and paths to holiness will keep a person very occupied during the liturgical year. Find a way to celebrate them that works for you, and go with it! (though it would be difficult to go all-out for every single saint on the liturgical calendar, pick a couple saints each month to start with and build up) I wear a Feast Day Hat (a red and white hat that I wear on Optional Memorials up to Feast days for saints in the liturgy; I have a princess hat for solemnities), other people cook food (, others make saint-related crafts, and other people pray with biographies of the saints on their special days—and these are just a few (of many) options! Also, I have to mention two of my favorite blogs: Carrots for Michaelmas and Catholic Fire. Both have a huge focus on living out the liturgical year, especially with the saints! I glean so much wonderfulness from these two blogs, I recommend checking them out!
Celebrate Each Season to the End: Last night, one of my household sisters was bemoaning the fact that once Christmas Day is over, people act like Christmas is over! While various Catholic traditions celebrate different time lengths of Christmas (octave, 12 Days, etc.), none of them show that Christmas in only one day. In fact, in the liturgy, the Christmas Season extends to the Baptism of the Lord, which doesn’t happen until January—after the Feast of the Epiphany. From there, green vestments come back out, though the “Christmas Cycle” (more subdued than Christmas, but still focusing on Christ’s manifestation) is still celebrated by some who follow a tradition of keeping up the Nativity and such till February 2, the Feast of Candlemas J And the Easter season totally goes until Pentecost, so celebrate!
Learn about Cool Liturgical Traditions for Each Season: Every season has some. The Catholic Church is over 2000 years old, there are some awesome traditions out there. So research and find some cool stuff to bring into your life! Oftentimes, I don’t research much during Ordinary Time, so when a liturgical season comes, I’m completely off guard and unprepared in regards to the special traditions and devotions out there. Personally, in the next few weeks, I want to learn more about cool Advent traditions besides the Advent wreath, and possibly put together ornaments for a Jesse Tree (because those are insanely cool).
Really Try to Soak up the Liturgical Prayers and Readings: I know it’s tough, we all get distracted (myself definitely included here!!!). But lately, I’ve really started paying more attention to the prayers, and I keep being blown away by just how epic they are. For example, here’s the Prayer after Communion for St. Luke’s Feast on October 18th (which we celebrated just a few weeks ago!): “Grant, we pray, almighty God, that what we have received from your holy altar may sanctify us and make us strong in the faith of the Gospel which St. Luke proclaimed. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (just read that! Isn't it amazing???)
Don’t let the retail stores steal your Ordinary Time joy! Celebrate the awesomeness of the Christian life, and have a blast with the rest of this liturgical season!!!!! Let’s live as liturgical people, continually worshipping God in mind and body, offering our lives and celebrations to Him!
To quote the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website:
“Christmas Time and Easter Time highlight the central mysteries of the Paschal Mystery, namely, the incarnation, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Sundays and weeks of Ordinary Time, on the other hand, take us through the life of Christ. This is the time of conversion. This is living the life of Christ.”