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Colour is one of the ways we know what’s going on during the church’s year. The colours of clergy robes, and in many churches the colour of altar frontals, is a physical demonstration of where we are in the story. Rich gold for the great festivals like Christmas and Easter; white for lesser festival days; purple, the royal colour, as we look for the coming of the king in Advent; red for the blood of the martyred saints (like St Barnabas who we remember this Sunday) and for the fire of the Holy Spirit. In the last few weeks we’ve had a blaze of colour with gold for Easter, red for Pentecost, and white for Trinity Sunday.
For about half the year, roughly from November to May, we have a series of changing colours to reflect the changing seasons of the church year, which in turn tells the story of Jesus’s life. Some special days apart, in the cathedral we’re now on to green, and we’ll stay green for the next few months. This is the green of what the church calendar calls ‘ordinary time’, the time which isn’t a special celebration or commemoration, the time which is just pretty ‘normal’, and covers about half the year.
‘Ordinary time’ is important for two reasons. First, it’s quite demanding for us to follow the cycle, hear the different bible stories and sing the different music: it helps us follow the story of Christ more deeply, but it takes a lot of effort to organise, and actually a lot of effort to come to, as well, because every week feels different and this can feel a bit disorienting.
But, secondly, life isn’t always about special days and changes and different feelings. A lot of days, a lot of life, we follow fairly ordinary rhythms of working, eating, sleeping, shopping, going to the doctors, feeding the cats, seeing relatives, watching T.V. … It’s a different kind of challenge to pray and listen to God when days feel much the same. So the long weeks of ordinary time are a way of acknowledging that, for most of us, there are times in our life which feel pretty constant, maybe even a bit boring or frustrating. And it’s a way of trying to listen out for God in the mundane, consistent, ordinary, even boring rhythms of daily life, as well as in those times of our lives which are more dramatic or exciting or challenging. In the long weeks ahead, I wonder if we can pray asking God what he has to show us in this settled season?
With prayers and best wishes,
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