The wisdom and beauty of the Church Calendar never ceases to amaze me.
After the Holy Day of Pentecost happened a few Sundays ago, I turned to my favorite daily prayer site, MorningPrayer.is. This site always has a banner along the top displaying the current church calendar season. I was surprised to see, days after Pentecost, the words “Ordinary Time” splayed across the site.
Isn’t it the season of Pentecost?
So, I googled it, and I found out that there’s no such thing as Pentecost Season.
Pentecost is just a single, holy day in the Christian Church Calendar. It’s when we celebrate the falling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon Christian believers, 50 days after the Resurrection (Easter). Kind of a big deal, right? Might it deserve a season?
And though it’s not a season, it’s actually far more beautiful than that.
With all the intentionality and thought put in to the Christian Church Calendar, it’s odd (to me, at least) that over half of the Liturgical Church Year consists of what’s called “Ordinary Time“. This is a time sprinkled with various feasts and individual “minor” Holy Days (like this one). The official Catholic handbook on the liturgical calendar describes it this way:
Apart from those seasons having their own distinctive character, thirty-three or thirty-four weeks remain in the yearly cycle that do not celebrate a specific aspect of the mystery of Christ. Rather, especially on the Sundays, they are devoted to the mystery of Christ in its fullness. This period is known as Ordinary Time.
And yet, this season sits firmly in the light of Pentecost. Though the season is Ordinary Time, the liturgical calendar commonly refers to this as “The Season after Pentecost”. Each week is named by its distance from Pentecost (“the first week after Pentecost”, “the second…”, so on and so forth). And many of the Holy Days and feasts during this season are those that focus on the works and power of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ and His People.
Doesn’t this mirror our lives and the history of the Church?
Pentecost happens. The Church is born. We are born into the Church. The Spirit indwells us. And it’s great and all, but isn’t the vast majority of the time that follows just seem…well…ordinary?
To me, this season in the Church Calendar emphasizes the mundaneness of the Christian existence. This reminds me of sex.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit (occurring at Pentecost) is, literally, us being joined in complete oneness with the Truest and Ultimate Lover of our Souls. It is the spiritual reality to which sex is “merely” a shadow. And it’s also meant to be mundane.
My favorite part of Lauren Winner’s amazing book Real Sex is when she talks about just how “ordinary” sex is meant to be. She writes:
In a Christian landscape, what’s important about sex is nurtured when we allow sex to be ordinary. This does not mean that sex will not be meaningful. Its meaning, instead, will partake in the variety of meanings that ordinary life offers. Sex needs to be clumsy. It should at times feel awkward. It should be an act we engage in for comfort. It should also be allowed to hold any number of anxieties…. Not only sexual intercourse is transformed as we allow it to take on the varieties of the commonplace; the varieties of the commonplace themselves are transformed as well. If we allow sex to be ordinary, we might better understand that human love is forged in, say, time spent cooking together, or in picking up our loved one’s laundry, or in calming our children’s fears….
Our task is not to cultivate moments when eros can whisk us away from our ordinary routines, but rather to love each other as eros becomes imbedded in, and transformed by, the daily warp and woof of married life. For in household sexuality, we see the ways our daily human struggles offer the only language we have to call ourselves to God’s grace.
It’s when union and communion become commonplace, and woven into the midst of “ordinary time”, that its power is truly known–the power not simply to spike our emotions, but to change and mold our souls. It’s the only way to truly dance in the rhythm of grace.
This helps us stay true when Ordinary Time is hard. It helps us stay faithful when the Spirit’s Indwelling seems so dull. It grows us to see signs of the Spirit in the midst of boredom and everyday life. It encourages us to use the Spirit’s gifts when it’s hard and unexciting.
It lets us see and taste the Spirit’s fruits in a garden that’s not so grand.
And so, as we move through Ordinary Time, may we keep Pentecost in our minds and the Spirit in our hearts. May it strengthen us, even when strength feels so Un-Ordinary. And may we believe in the Spirit’s Presence, even without the tongues and flame.
[image credit: watercolor by Angie Iver]