January 22, 2023 Essay: The Wonder of Ordinary Time

Jan 12, 2023

Which are the magic moments
In ordinary time? All of them,
for those who can see.
These words are taken from the poem, Ordinary Time, by the American poet Tim Dlugos. In this poem, he writes about the cacophonous voices and colorful personalities that encircle his life like whirling dervishes, creating beauty and meaning out of the mundane fabric of life. He recognizes his own life in this tapestry, a life teeming with fresh perspectives and qualities of everyday experiences where magic was found. Dlugos wrote this poem as he was approaching death. He died from complications related to AIDS at the age of 40.

Dlugos’s poem came to mind as I reflected on the season of Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar of the church that began this year on January 10th, the day after the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. While I can appreciate that the church refers to that period of time as “ordinary” when no major feast days are on the church’s calendar, until it is interrupted by the Lenten and Easter Seasons, it nonetheless seems to me to be a misnomer. It diminishes the extraordinary nature of what is celebrated every time we gather for Mass. It dims the luster of what is being fashioned anew in each moment of our lives, especially when we see the hand of God at work on what we make and do and say, as Dlugos writes in Ordinary Time.

Many of us, throughout our lives, inhabit the monotonous routine of the gray tones of the ordinary. Our faith, at times, is bundled into an automatic response mechanism of doing what is expected of us as Catholics or Jews or Muslims or of any other faith tradition. Habit stifles our curiosity, dampens our spirit, and limits our vision. In such a world, it becomes nearly impossible to recognize the magical moments that surround us, the extraordinary paths that lie before us. We take for granted what is precious in the eyes of God and fail to reverence what is right in front of our eyes. Such a state of stupor is not limited to our faith life; it can tragically pervade our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with God.

The extraordinary (or, as Dlugos would refer to it, the magical) inhabits the very soul of the ordinary. The question for us is, are we among those who can see?

A gentle breeze on a summer’s day; a thunderous downpour of rain
A single breath; a heartbeat
A tear of sorrow; tears of joy
A loving caress; a longing look
A simple prayer; a hand outstretched
An ordinary Mass; a loving sacrifice.

When our hearts, our souls, and our eyes are open to the wonder of the ordinary, we will see the magical. Then we will recognize that the extraordinary is inextricably entwined with the ordinary.

We will see the hand of God at work in each moment of our lives, and our hearts will soar in a world of magic. May our discovery of this truth not come at the end of our lives, as it did for Tim Dlugos. Let it motivate us to celebrate with joy every day, every moment, and every Mass of Ordinary Time that is by its very nature extraordinary.

— Rev. Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor