Never ceasing to teach us, Mother Church, like a good mom, engages all of our senses with different colors, sounds, smells, and motions throughout the liturgical cycle. When my house was filled with munchkins, they got excited about helping me drape our home in purple for lent and advent or white lilies for Easter, and I would smile when they noticed those same colors in Church. I taught them, “Purple is for penance and preparing. White is for celebrating. Red is for the Holy Spirit’s fire (or the blood of the martyrs). Green is for growing.”
So here we are, past the fifty days of Easter and the mighty day of Pentecost, and our church altars are clothed in green once again. Although it may seem like ordinary time is another way of saying “nothing special,” the term actually comes from ordinal numbers, which mark a position, namely “first, second, third . . .” Ordinal numbers, then, demonstrate the step-by-step progression of our faith journey. In nature, too, God unfolds his perfect plan incrementally—first in the sowing of seed, then roots, then a shoot which eventually matures and brings forth leaves and fruit. In the master’s plan, growing time is vital.
As moms, we bank on this slow and steady growth. As we carry our infants, we look forward to them gaining mobility, but not too fast! While we are still tying shoes and wiping hineys, we can’t wait for our kids not to need us so much, but when our teenagers are beyond ready to be on their own, we grow in appreciation for God’s design that people develop one day at a time, one step at a time, ordinarily.
So the cycle of Catholic spirituality is tallied Sunday after Sunday in ordinal numbers, reminding us of the never-ending cycle of personal growth that conforms us to Christ. On the ladder of sanctity, oh how I would love to leap from the first rung to the twentieth in one great burst! Yet, in reality, I more often take two steps forward and one step back. I’ve heard that described as “imperfect progress,” which is still growth after all. So let us not be discouraged but just take the first step . . . and then the second . . . and move forward daily, trusting that his divine plan includes the growing pains and setbacks that we face one day at a time. Ordinarily.