Ordinary Time – the final season of the Christian Calendar year – is a six months long season that begins with Pentecost (the 50th and final day of Easter) and ends with Reign of Christ Sunday (the Sunday prior to Advent). Ordinary Time occurs during the third and final cycle: The Cycle of Love (Concentrating on the Outworking of Redemption – God through us).
First, let’s consider Pentecost which is the culmination of the Easter season and the starting mark of Ordinary Time. The symbolic color of Pentecost is red as a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s descent like “tongues, as of fire” on the gathered disciples. Over time, Pentecost has come to be celebrated not just for a single day but for eight days, from Sunday to Sunday. The Sunday after Pentecost is often called Trinity Sunday and is both the beginning of Ordinary Time and, with its focus on the Trinity, an appropriate conclusion to the octave (eight days) of Pentecost, during which we celebrate the outpouring and indwelling of the third Person of the Trinity.
During the long season of Ordinary Time, the Sundays are simply numbered and there are no major feasts comparable to Christmas or Pascha. This is a time to celebrate Christ’s presence in the world in a different way: the Spirit indwelling the believer to enable a fruitful life and empowering the church to engage in redemptive mission. We reveal His light, we exhibit His life, and we embody His love.
The months of Ordinary Time are a time to enter into rhythms of healthy discipleship: gathering for worship and dispersing for witness, tending to ourselves and caring for others, enjoying our rest and fulfilling our duties. Witness in the world and worship in community, care for neighbor and care for self, fruitful labor and refreshing rest, these are spiritual rhythms of Ordinary Time. As we pour ourselves out for God and others, God graciously pours himself into us.
The symbolic color of Ordinary Time is green and the thematic cues for the season come from Luke 24 and Acts 1. Christ works in us and through us by His Spirit to announce His gracious salvation and extend His righteous rule to the people of the world, all in expectation of His glorious return.
Two simple disciplines help us live well in Ordinary Time: receiving the day and releasing the day.
- Receiving the day is all about our disposition each morning. Consciously begin each new day gratefully accepting the day as a gift, acknowledging God’s goodness, and inviting His empowering presence. Commit to Him your whole self and all your coming endeavors; then set about the day in joyful dependence.
- Releasing the day embodies our disposition at the end of each day. Create a daily evening practice of going over your day, recalling those points when you sensed most clearly God’s closeness and care and those when you felt most disconnected or disconcerted. Give thanks, then, for God’s presence in those experiences and confess your sins and failings. Finally, let go of the day, leaving in God’s hands any things that were left undone and any that threaten to undo you. Then enter peacefully into the gift of sleep.
Both habits immerse us in grace.
This is the season of LOVE. Jesus poured himself out in love, and we seek to do the same. We live out the extraordinary mysteries of the earlier cycles of the year, the light of God incarnate and the life of Christ resurrected. Not only that, He pours His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit—the roaring wind, the living flame, the power of God (Rom. 5:5).
Ideas for Observing Pentecost:
- Wear red to church on Pentecost.
- Through the eight days of Pentecost, light a red candle at your household meal each day.
- Locate a dove and set it out during the octave of Pentecost.
Ideas for Observing the Season of Ordinary Time:
- Light a green candle during mealtime.
- Study the Holy Spirit.
- Study the Trinity.
- Proclaim the Good News.
- Breathe a breath prayer. Pay attention to where God might be present in that moment and be mindful of your desire to keep your eyes and heart turned toward Christ.
- Breathe a simple breath prayer each time you perform some routine activity such as washing your hands or getting in your car.
In devoting ourselves to Jesus through the intentional observance of the Christian Calendar, over time, our stories conform to His Story, our lives to His Life. From Him we learn the waiting that enlarges, the giving that enriches and the telling that enlightens. With Him we experience the turning that blessedly humbles us, the dying to self that leads to healing and the rising that heartens our whole being. And in pouring out ourselves like Him, we receive His transforming power. This is the Christ-centered choreography of the Christian year.
The good news can be summed up in a trinity of declarations: Jesus is the light that darkness cannot overcome. Jesus is the life that death cannot hold. Jesus is the self-sacrificing love that evil cannot fathom. We divide the sacred calendar into cycles, but these great themes flow through every season: they saturate the Story of God from beginning to end: Creation, Covenant, Promise, Incarnation, Kingdom, Golgotha, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Return, New Creation. A full circle.
Light. Life. Love. To live the Christian year is to be immersed in the oceans represented by these words.
What an experience! Won’t you join me in turning our faces toward Jesus? …In making Him our One Thing, as we intentionally set out to immerse ourselves in the oceans of Light, Life, and Love? It is not too late. This first week of Advent – the beginning of the Christian Calendar year – is a wonderful time to begin.
For those who have a desire to observe the Christian Calendar over the upcoming year but might be held back because the “hour seems late” or they just don’t know where or how to begin, I have listed just a few resources below that you might find helpful. Also there are two PDF resources available on the Free Resources page. One is a brief overview of each of the cycles and seasons of the Christian Calendar year. The other is a planning form. Both are useful in conquering the “overwhelms” of something that might be completely new to someone.
soli deo gloria as we inhabit the Story of God,
For further reading:
Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross (InterVarsityPress)
The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year by Kimberlee Conway Ireton (InterVarsityPress)
Celebrating the Christian Year: Building Family Traditions Around All the Major Christian Holidays by Martha Zimmerman (Bethany House Publishers)
Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World? By Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder (Zondervan)