This morning for the first time in far too long, I used the Pray-as-you-Go reflection to start my day. For all sorts of reasons, mostly good and justifiable, my private devotions have been very disrupted of late, and it is high time I took myself in hand and got them back on track.
So it was, that this morning the recording announced that it is the 23rd week of ordinary time. The first thing that struck me was just that - the twenty third week, that in fact ordinary time is mostly what life is about, that penitential seasons and festivals are necessarily short and focussed, a distraction from the ordinariness of life. I guess one of the questions for me is what 'ordinary' or 'normal' looks like now. I cannot turn back the clock to my old understandings of 'normal', I have to live with 'new normal' and work out what 'ordinary' looks like. Reluctant though I am to admit it, my brain is not what it was a year ago (as I said to one friend recently I am lucky, my reduction in mental faculty is from someone for whom doctoral research was relatively straight forward to someone for whom it would be quite demanding) and my short term memory is permanently affected by the drugs or their side effects. I need to work harder to achieve what I once took for granted - that's maybe not a bad thing, as it forces me to expect a bit less of other people.
At the same time, ordinary is a good place to be. Not having a diary crammed full of exotic-sounding hospital appointments is good. Being able to wake up and think 'nothing much happening today' is remarkably pleasant (though this week includes three evening meetings and a fair amount of written stuff on tight deadlines... why did I take a holiday, remind me?!). That most of life is just ordinary, just plods along, is actually worthy of celebration. Special occasions and parties have their place, but it is good just to get on with ordinariness.
And it is within the ordinariness that routines can be established that help us deal with the unexpected challenges of life.
Today's PAYG centred on Jesus calling the first diciples... he spent a night in prayer, he chose the twelve, a massive crowd came seeking him. The commentator noted the importance of the balance between 'being' and 'doing', that Jesus both took time away to pray and time to be busy with people. It seemed quite apposite for the first PAYG I've listened to in ages.
For me, being back in ordinary time, even if I'm not entirely sure what that now means, is a good thing. Being able to re-establish my times and spaces for reflection, Bible study and prayer, re-training my wandering mind to focus Godward, rediscovering the delight of making connections between faith and life, feeling more 'in control' after a year of being somewhat 'at sea', all that seems very good.
Evidently in the liturgical year there are 33 or 34 weeks of ordinary time (depends how Easter falls), so around two thirds of the year. Of the rest, around 10 weeks are penitential (Advent and Lent) and the remaining 8 or 9 festal (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost). Maybe that's something worth thinking about in life - what is the balance of ordinariness, celebrating and reflecting we experience?