No Ordinary Ordinary Time

I recently discovered the post that follows in my computer file of blog entries. I wrote it back in June of 2020, but somehow never posted it. I do so now, as we remain in extraordinary times and as we shall soon re-enter the season of the year about which I wrote. (I have not edited or updated it.)

For Christians who follow a church-year calendar, there are traditionally two halves of the year: “The Time of Our Lord” (running usually from late November to mid-June), in which the Bible readings for each Sunday recount the life of Jesus; and “The Time of the Church” (basically, the summer and fall), in which the focus is on life and growth of Christian believers, both individually and in groups. Green (symbolic of growth) is the liturgical color during the latter, for months on end. During my lifetime, Sundays in this half of the year have variously been termed “Sundays after Trinity” (i.e., the Sunday in which God’s threeness-in-oneness is affirmed and celebrated), then “Sundays after Pentecost” (the Sunday before Trinity Sunday, when the gift of the Holy Spirit that initiated the Christian Church is recalled). Recently, yet a third term has come into widespread use among Protestants who observe such things, a term borrowed from the Roman Catholic tradition: “Ordinary Time.” The term derives from the ordinal numbers that are used to designate the Sundays, “Nth Sunday in Ordinary Time.”

Still, I’ll admit that the usage clangs in my ear this time around. There’s been nothing “ordinary” whatsoever about the Year of Our Lord 2020 to this point, and the prospects for a resumption of ordinary (or, as most folks call it, “normal”) in the near term seem bleak. According to the experts whom I’m reading these days, we are not yet in the second wave of the coronavirus in the U.S., because we’re still in the midst of the first wave. There is the growing realization that said first wave is disproportionately affecting our poorer fellow-citizens, often those of color. Our leaders at the state and local levels are caught in a tug-of-war between those who really would as soon stay as locked-down as possible until there’s a vaccine and those who really feel a need to resume commerce (or who are just sick of being cooped up). Then there are the killings of blacks by police and the resultant protests—most of them peaceful—calling for a reconsideration of the proper role and function of law enforcement. And, oh yes, there’s a presidential election campaign just getting underway, and in the meantime the incumbent for at least the next seven months is—to put this as neutrally as possible—the most eccentric in American history.

So this is no ordinary Ordinary Time. Because the usual Ordinary Time (a.k.a. “the warm months” in these parts) is when most people get to do the special things, like take a break from their workaday lives and go on vacation. But this year many of us are already home (even if working) and “socially distancing” from friends and even the family with whom we would normally be gathering in this season. As a result, the “ordinary” and the “special” seem flipped on their heads.

So what’s to think or do about it?