The Anglican church follows a church calendar that consists of five seasons (as do, I believe, the Roman Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, and Lutheran traditions). The first four are Advent (first Sunday in December until Christmas), Epiphany (Christmas to Ash Wednesday), Lent (Ash Wednesday to Easter), and Easter (Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday). And, I am not taking away from the importance of these. It’s important for us as the Church to set aside time to recognize the particularly important events in our faith (the birth of Christ, his crucifixion, resurrection, and the sending of His Spirit to the Church. These times have proven very spiritually meaningful to many people, myself included.
However, there is a fifth liturgical season that is not as well known. We are in it now; it lasts from Pentecost Sunday until early December; a solid six months. It is known as the Season of the Trinity. Rather than spending that season honoring a an exhilarating theological event, it is spent focused on the Trinity, a most basic fact of the unchanging God.
At the start of each liturgical season, my church hands out a booklet with prayers and Scripture readings for that season. I would like to quote the introduction page for the Season of the Trinity booklet:
“The church calendar orients our spirituality and schedules around the events of Christ’s life. In a yearly journey through these events, we gradually come to know what it means to be united to him in the experiences of longing and fulfillment, sadness, and joy. It can be tempting, however, to think that our Christian life is solely characterized by these spiritual extremes. This is where the Trinity season is vital to our Christian walk.
Much of our life is lived in the ordinary and mundane. If we’re honest, it is an infrequent occurrence when something quite remarkable takes place in our lives. Periodically, we may become discouraged and long for excitement and emotional exhilaration, and this is especially the case in our spiritual walk. We often think that we need a spiritual high to feel close to God. But on the contrary, it is in the slow, regular rhythms of our lives-the scheduled activities of Sunday worship and daily devotion, the slow cultivation of relationships, and our vocations-that God most frequently meets us.
Trinity season is the longest season in the church calendar. It spans from Trinity Sunday to Advent. In some ways, this ‘ordinary time’ most closely mirrors our lives, lives marked by regular events and seemingly monotonous rhythms. A truly countercultural Christianity grasps this time with a willing and content spirit that meets God in the orginary and the mundane.”
Now THAT was refreshing, if anything ever was. Here you have an acknowledgement that much of life lacks spiritual highs, and is in fact quite mundane at times. You will likewise find that in the Bible, while we see a lot of God speaking directly to people, most of those people’s live are not recorded, which likely means that the norm for the those people was living otherwise mundane lives.
But American evangelicalism, as a general rule, has almost no place for this. Its roots in revivalism require constant and continuous life-altering emotional experiences with God. In many evangelical small group settings, the high point of the event is to go around the circle (as I experienced) and be able to describe “what God has been doing in your life” most often through really cool experiences, their emotional connection with their daily Bible reading, or their emotional inklings during their prayer times. Generally, the more emotional and/or extroverted you were, the more likely you were to have something relevant to that criteria to be able to share, and thus be viewed favorably. If you didn’t, as was almost invariably the case for me, it was obviously because of a poor prayer life, inadequate reading of Scripture, or ongoing sin in your life, and you were either lectured or at the very least given very stern, grave looks.
In our Anglican liturgical tradition, in contrast, such experiences are viewed as the exception, and the way to best experience God is to practice the Eucharist, the liturgy, prayer, and Scripture reading, which is how God is met, whether we FEEL like it or not. The Season of the Trinity is indeed constructed around this assumption.
It is my sincere hope that this may one day be embraced by our evangelical brothers and sisters, and that “spiritually boring” people everywhere will be able to stand up and say, “I don’t feel that close to God right now, but that’s OK. Because of His promises, I can continue to have assurance of one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”