So, we're officially in Ordinary Time, which means the parments on the pulpit and lectern get turned to green until Lent begins (just before my birthday this year) when they are turned to purple.
(The Liturgical year, as I remember it: Advent is purple, because it's like a mini-Lent, Christmastide through Epiphany is white, the color of purity and I guess rejoicing? Because it's also for Easter...Ordinary Time is green, Lent is purple again, Easter is white, then back to Ordinary Time with a short detour for Pentecost (red) in June...and then the cycle starts again. I LIKE following the liturgical year; in a world where so much is changing and unsettled and even violent and upsetting, it is oddly a relief to walk into church, and see the color of the parment, and know where in the year you are)
Ordinary Time is.....kinda when nothing really happens? Or at least, that's how it seems. The lectionary cycles through things from the Gospels (the parables, stories of healings) and the Epistles and readings from the Old Testament, but there's not the hopeful expectation of Advent, or the joy of Christmas, or the seriousness and soul searching of Lent, or the horrors of Good Friday, or the joy of Easter. It's kind of....keepin' on keepin' on, I guess*.
(*The phrase "keep on keepin' on," which I learned from Luvada Hunter - a much-loved African-American member of my parents' church - she has long since gone onto her reward - is one I really love. Because to me, it carries the connotation of "you'll get there eventually" and also "you're doing fine, keep going." I remember once when I was working on my dissertation and it wasn't going well, and I had mentioned it to Luvada, she smiled at me and patted me on the arm and said "Just keep on keepin' on, I believe in you" and that was something....that was exactly the thing I needed to hear then)
Anyway. The thing about Ordinary Time 1, as this is sometimes called - well, Christmas is newly put away, it's kind of dark and cold (if you live in the Northern hemisphere), many of us are trying to drop the weight we put on during the holidays and cut back on spending to pay the bills from the holiday and....it's just kind of a hard time. And there's not a great deal after Epiphany to look forward to (I have said before: I don't really do Valentine's Day, I don't really do St. Patrick's Day, though this year I may be up visiting my mother for it). There's my birthday, but as I said: no one around here really cares about it that much other than me, and I'll be teaching my longest hardest day of classes on it, and I may or may not be able to go do something that weekend because it's likely Honors Weekend, which I am working.
But I do think of this poem. It's part of a longer piece, sometimes called "Christmas Oratorio," by WH Auden. I've liked it since I first heard it - more than 20 years ago now, probably closer to 25, when we had an interim minister at my parents' church. His name was Jim Pruyne (he has also since gone on to his reward) and I know some people disagreed with some of the things he said and he was probably more theologically liberal than the average congregant in that congregation. But he always made me think, and I liked that, and he based his Epiphany sermon on the poem, and I've always thought of it every year since that, because there's a lot to "chew on" in there.
And so, I quote it here:
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes –
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week –
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully –
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.