Nancy had been so gentle in the way she commented on my blog post, subtly cautioning me to not hasten on to Lent and by-pass ‘Ordinary Time’. Ordinary Time- the two cycles of days, one between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, the other between Pentecost and Advent, covers most of the days of our lives, yearly. I had not forgotten it, but rather, had failed to observe it, and by that token missed the whole purpose of it- the hallowing of all of my days.
Kimberlee Conway Ireton laughed me off when I described her book, The Circle of Seasons, as ‘seminal’. But in response to Nancy’s caution, Kimberlee’s book, aptly subtitled ‘Meeting God in the Church Year’, is exactly where I defaulted to, in order to realign my heart to the “rhythm of Grace” that the church’s historical liturgical calendar was designed to be, including ‘ordinary time’.
In the chapter dedicated to the first cycle of ordinary time, Kimberlee referenced two of my favourite Bible personages – Anna & Simeon- two ordinary people, who hallowed all their days, by looking for Messiah, and were not disappointed. Simeon did so by cherishing a promise given to him by God that his days on earth would not come to an end until he had seen the Saviour, enfleshed. Anna, consecrated the whole of her remaining days, following her early widowhood, to prayer, fasting and serving in the house of the Lord, and thus cultivated spiritual senses so sharp, she also, identified the Redeemer, though He was clothed in the ordinary flesh of a carpenter’s family’s infant child.
Wrapping up my observance of Black History month, for the first time through blog posts, I could not help but feel I had been divinely guided to honour the 5,500 ordinary foot-soldiers, many of whom were themselves African-Americans, who died in what became known as the ‘Battle of The Crater’ during the Civil War; similarly, for the two ‘ordinary’ heroines of the Civil Rights era—Ruby Bridges and Barbara Henry, who displayed amazing courage in spearheading the desegregation of schools in Louisiana in 1960. If this month could be seized upon as a time to “see Jesus” – the ‘Imago Dei’- in the eyes of our fellowmen, especially those from whom we are most different- those with whom our life circumstances would not ordinarily have thrown us —what a difference this could make for our nation and for our personal lives.
It might be easy to “see Jesus” in the eyes of an adoring new hubby, fresh from the wedding, as go the words of the Sharalee Lucas love song,”I see Jesus in your eyes and it makes me love Him/…makes me love you”.But it takes a few more runs through the spiritual washer to see the same in that guy a few years and a few offenses later into the marriage. How much more intentional then do we have to be, in cooperating with the Divine Paraclete, in the process to develop eyes that see Jesus in the eyes of people who are different from our familiar folk.
It costs something of time, treasure and effort to have Christ formed in us in that way. A surrender of the will to so prioritize this goal that we would invest whatever it takes to experience the washing of the eyes of our spirit by the Living Word. Investing regularly in spiritual ablutions such as silence, fasting, the daily Examen and meditation in the Scriptures facilitate what Kimberlee describes as learning to “pay attention”. Writing in her book about a revelatory moment on a routine walk with her young son, as he stopped to attend a worm on the sidewalk, when she was making a beeline for home and lunch, she describes what she almost missed,
“In those few moments, I was like Simeon and Anna, attentive to the presence of God in the moment at hand…filled with joy and wonder at the goodness and beauty of God and this world He made”.
Lent begins tomorrow and though I had feared that I had missed a meaningful observance of Ordinary time this first cycle, I realize I may not have after all. Ruby Bridges and Barbara Henry, soldiers dying to end slavery, mothers writing books, blogs and stories of encounters with God in their ordinary days, serve to prepare me for how He might want to be seen in me, in all of mine. Thanks Nancy.