If you’re like me, there seems to be a real disconnect between the solemnity of Pentecost and the swift change immediately into Ordinary Time. (Thankfully, Pope Francis gave us a little buffer with the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church). But still, going from the imagery of fire, water, tongues, and brilliant shades of red back to “normal” in the course of 24 hours is a little too much for me to process. Previously, there used to be an octave for Pentecost (8 days of celebration, as for Christmas and Easter), but in the new calendar Ordinary Time begins right away.
While we could certainly get into further conversation about the origins of this change and the rationale behind it, the fact of the matter is that the change has been made. We now have the season of green following the splendid day of red so close in sequence that you would think they were Christmas colors.
Thankfully, our Lord works in the present moment. He is the God of “the now.” Whether you are a fan of the change, ardently disagree with it, or find yourself indifferent, perhaps we can look at Ordinary Time in a new way – as a time of God’s immanent action.
At Pentecost, of course, the Spirit is sent upon the disciples who were gathered together in the Upper Room with Our Lady. It was at this point that they began to live the apostolic life in the Holy Spirit. In other words, they were given the Spirit of Christ so that they could bring his very presence to the ends of the earth. They couldn’t simply rest in the Upper Room – the Spirit compelled them to go out and to live their life in the Spirit.
And so, perhaps we can begin to look at Ordinary Time as the time to live our lives totally immersed in the Holy Spirit. Traditionally, the green of the season is symbolic of new life and Christian hope – both gifts of the Spirit. And also the first Sunday celebration in Ordinary Time is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – who comes to dwell in the baptized soul by the power of the Holy Spirit. The week after, we celebrate Corpus Christi in which we remember the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood made sacramentally present at each Mass through the action of the Spirit.
In a certain way, Ordinary Time is the perfect time for the Spirit to manifest his ever-new creativity. Throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons, along with Lent and Easter, we focus our attention on the salvific acts of Christ. Ordinary Time, however, is the time in which we can better focus on the power and creativity of the Spirit who always seeks to make present those realities in our daily lives in an ever-new way.
In other words, perhaps we can look at Ordinary Time like the Church intends it to be understood – as a time of hope and new life. Thinking back to the apostles who left the Upper Room following Pentecost, I can only imagine that they were filled to the brim with those two gifts. And upon bringing the saving work of Christ to the nations, I’m sure those gifts only continued to increase, even in spite of danger and difficulty.
Come to think of it, the color of this time is green.
And green means “go.”
Come, Holy Spirit, and send us forth with new hope in order to bring new life!
Brian Isenbarger, MA ’14, is an alumnus of the Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program. He is currently a seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.