What a whirlwind of liturgical celebration we have experienced. We went to bed the night of Christmas and woke up to the feast of the Holy Family. Saturday morning, Jan. 1, found us celebrating Mary the Mother of God, but by 4 p.m., we were into vigil Masses for the Epiphany. The Baptism of the Lord followed close behind.
The next eight weeks of ordinary time count us through the winter season to Ash Wednesday. Winter ordinary time invites people to slow down, to be reflective, and to dwell in the light of Christ on these still dark winter nights. In the Gospels of ordinary time, Jesus instructs us in how to grow in our faith, to be strengthened by it, to live that faith in a bold manner. It is this time of spiritual introspection that prepares us for the Lenten journey of springtime.
The liturgical environment of winter ordinary time speaks of hope in the midst of cold and darkness. While poinsettias may linger in corners of the church, you most likely will see decorations such as pots of bare birch branches or frosted evergreens. If there is a “green thumb” serving on your parish environment committee you might see a big pot of amaryllis bulbs. Each week they will grow a little higher, a little greener until the fullness of the blossoms appear — the exact same thing we desire to happen to our faith during this season.
The liturgical color of ordinary time is green. Unlike summer ordinary time, which is enveloped by nature abloom with flowers and green leafed trees, this season’s green is held only by the evergreens. They serve as sentinels of faith reminding us to be strong and hope filled even in those moments when our faith wants to give way.
Several years ago in our church, bare branches of the willow were used in the environment. The pots were watered weekly. As the weeks of ordinary time passed, tiny flicks of green began to appear on the branches and eventually leaves popped. When ordinary time was over I took two stalks of willow home. The leaves had wilted but the shoots had sprouted roots. I kept them in water and as soon as planting could begin outside. I put the two branches in the soil. I now have a tree that is eight-feet tall. This “church tree” is a daily reminder to me of the great things that can occur if we tend to our faith and allow God to nurture it. May this season of ordinary time hold the same promise for you.
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.