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April 20, 2013 / thatsarahdean

Everyone act normal

First published in Third Way magazine, October 2012. Guest article covering for regular columnist

In the supermarket yesterday morning the cheerful chap behind the till handed me my change, wished me a good day and added, “It’s nearly the weekend!” I nodded politely and smiled, then walked away thinking “Since when did Wednesday at 10am become ‘nearly the weekend’”?

Don’t get me wrong everyone looks forward to time off work and this was clearly a conversational set piece, a silence filler in a dull retail job but this exchange reminded me that after a summer of Jubilee, Olympics, Paralympics and scandals about nudey princes in Vegas, we are now staring down the barrel of normal life.  At this time of year as things get darker, colder and damper many of us, myself included, get a bit fed up, and this year after all the excitement of summer 2012 that feeling could well be worse than ever, what then have we got to look forward to?

Firstly anyone who answers that question with Christmas deserves a dead arm, because it’s way too early for that, and anyone who says Halloween is clearly younger than me and doesn’t realise trick or treating is not a British thing, we just copied that from the film E.T. The correct answer is there is nothing to look forward to, for a while at least, because we are now in “Ordinary Time.” And to this I say Hooray!

I grew up a Methodist, so I was too busy drinking sacramental Ribena and debating whether tombolas were evil to fully engage with the liturgical calendar. (Some searing denominational satire there for you schism fans!) It is only in the past few years that I have learnt about and appreciated the rhythms and seasons of the liturgical year, something I have picked up from listening to Franciscan podcasts. (Can I just say I love the fact that monks are always on the cutting edge of technology – podcasts, the blast furnace, beer with fruit in it! Nice work lads.)

There are thirty-three weeks of Ordinary Time in the average liturgical year (thirty-four weeks some years for a reason I don’t really understand, but the podcasting monks have probably developed an app or a IMAX presentation to explain why).  I like the fact that in calling it Ordinary Time, it is as if the church is saying ‘It’s official everyone, go about your daily lives please, nothing special needs to happen. It doesn’t matter what Clinton Cards say we are not, repeat we are not, in the official run up to anything. Do everyday stuff. Do the laundry, read the Bible, pay the gas bill, worship God, eat beans on toast, eat the beans cold out the tin with a fork if you like, it’s fine, it’s ordinary!’

All of October and the bulk of November is ordinary time. So after our 2012 summer of wonder and before Advent creeps up on us all, normal service is resumed, and we have permission to just be.

Like most people I am not a natural at ‘just being’, and it is definitely easier to praise God and appreciate the simple things during a time of plenty. However I am determined this autumn not to see Ordinary Time as a low point in the year, a long dark, cold trudge to the next time of wonder. Instead I am going to revel in the every day, enjoy the fact that the pressure is off, that we can restock the cupboards, wash the muddy festival clothes and get back to normal.

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