(or the post in which I blog on the chapter I was supposed to last Monday…)
by Andrea Tisher
There was a long time in my life when the only two celebrations of the church year that I knew about were Christmas and Easter. Christmas was celebrated with a “Carols by Candlelight” service on Christmas Eve and Easter was a big extravaganza of “He is risen” hymns on a Sunday in April.
Christmas always started bef0re the fact, with decorations in the church and the addition of some carols week by week. Easter was a little more abrupt. One Sunday a year we declared emphatically that the Jesus who was crucified sometime back in history had risen from the dead.
The rest of the year was just…ordinary.
Turns out that my experience is not totally unlike the history of the liturgical year. Chittister reminds us that Ordinary Time used to be all of the time of the year that wasn’t Christmas or Easter. Now that the calendar is more complete, we have two major chunks of Ordinary Time. One between Christmas and Lent and another between Pentecost and Advent. This first Ordinary Time is shorter and seems to naturally be focused on the life of the man who was born in Bethlehem as we always know that Lent is not that far away (see last week’s post, Auden says it better). But Chittister rightly points out that this bit of Ordinary Time gives us a chance “to contemplate the intersection between the life of Jesus and our own.” (97) And after all the celebration of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, suddenly there is no distraction. No religious or liturgical actions to get caught up in… “Jesus was, is and will come again.” (99) And this is enough. And we’ll need a few weeks to sit with just this before we’re ready to journey toward the cross during Lent. The calendar gives us a little breathing room before then next bit of the story is told.
Ordinary Time: the time in the calendar when the simple truth of Jesus who was, is and will come again is more than enough.
I like this chapter, and your post echoes Sister Joan’s simple style here. She talks about ‘contemplation’ a lot here. What does that look like? Has anyone got any examples or insights into what makes for fruitful contemplation? Does silence and solitude help? Is this synchronising of Jesus’ story and my story best done as a group, in solitude, with bibles open or with eyes closed? Are there any practices that don’t look ‘contemplative’, but which achieve these goals?
Ian, I find contemplation difficult. Once or twice a year I manage, out somewhere in nature, to be still for an hour or more and to spend that hour in listening, rather than asking. In breathing in, rather than stressing out. This is my very over-simplified definition of contemplation – although I guess I would add an element of reflecting on who Christ is, and who I am. I always come away from moments like this saying that I should do it regularly. So why don’t I?
I’ve been thinking lately that we forget sometimes that a personal relationship with Jesus means that every single relationship will look different. Communication patterns will be different. Things done together will be different. We so often look for one or two ways of contemplation (or prayer, or worship, or…) that everyone needs to practice. I wonder if it’s better to gravitate towards what works for your personality. This does not mean that we don’t establish communal ways of contemplating (and prayer, and worship, and…) – but every community also has a unique personality and way of relating to Christ – this is why what works in one church so seldom works in the same way in another.
Sorry – that got a bit off topic perhaps – but it’s what’s been on my mind as I try to figure out how I contemplate, how my personality is (or best should be) involved in my communication with Christ.
Ah yes, contemplation. The thing we know we need, but that’s SO hard to actually do.
Silence is good – but I often wonder how many other people are wondering what to do with the silence. The time I’m most aware of this dilemma is during communion. In our church, there is a lot of silence and wordless space and it seems that some of our congregation need that and want it. Others seem to struggle with just what they should be thinking/doing/feeling during that time. Corporate contemplation requires teaching I think… and practice.
Meanwhile, when it comes to private moments of contemplation, it’s so hit and miss for me too. I echo Stacey’s idea that it’s been important for me to keep as many doors open as well. Slow reading of scripture, lectio divina in community, silence, solitude, music, walking, … and I’m sure there are more!
Thanks Andrea – for double posting this week and for doing a good job of it. :) I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this season of Ordinary Time. I told a kids story in every service, choosing stories from Jesus’s life that aligned with Andrew’s sermon series on Abraham. It was lovely to take some of those stories down to their basics and figure out how to communicate them to kids. Somehow it refreshed my spirit as well. As you say, Andrea, the truth of who Jesus was, is, and will be was more than enough.
Love the idea of hearing a Jesus story in dialogue with Abraham. Once again, the kids’ story isn’t just for the kids. :)
[…] In return, the very practice of renunciation instils us with many gifts. In it we find faith, the daring to believe anew that I need less than I think of creation’s good things, because I am in fact the Creator’s friend. And hope, hope that by God’s mighty immanent grace, today can still be that better day, the day of Kingdom Come – and so I need not pin my hopes for ‘a better life’ on the next indulgence, the next vacation, the next tv programme or bit of human recognition. Asceticism, in short, is a form of training, training to say ‘no’ to my small-god-self, to depose myself in order to make way for others, for Another. It frees me from my tiny wisdom, my limited will. It frees my gifts to benefit more than just me. It frees and clears my consciousness for the very ‘contemplation’ that Ordinary Time calls me to (see chapter 15). […]