by Deacon Michael Bickerstaff | January 14, 2018 12:04 am
We are only two weeks into the new year and I have already heard many comments about how quickly Christmas “came and went” and how “soon Lent will be upon us!” That’s what happens in this earthly life—we move through time. We mark moments in time that represent important events. Time is one of the essential elements by which we measure our lives. The passing birthdays and anniversaries, major news events, historical memorials, seasons of the year—all provide a rhythm to our lives.
The same is true in our liturgy. This most important work of the Family of God is also marked by seasons and celebrations. The liturgical season of Christmas came to an end with the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Monday, January 11th. And now we are in Ordinary Time, the longest “season” of the Church’s liturgical year.
Ordinary Time comprises two parts of the liturgical year, separated by the Lenten and Easter seasons. Each year, Ordinary Time begins on the Monday following the first Sunday after January 6th.
In most years, this first Sunday after January 6th is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. However, in those countries where Epiphany is transferred to the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th, and when Epiphany is celebrated on January 7th or 8th, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the following day—what would usually be Monday of the First Week of Ordinary Time. Confusing? Yes, so there is no need to re-read this paragraph!
Ordinary Time continues through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the observance of the Lenten Season. Ordinary Time resumes on the Monday following Pentecost and continues until the start of first Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of the First Sunday of Advent.
Before we can look specifically to the meaning of Ordinary Time, we need to know something of the way the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ during each liturgical year.
“Christ’s saving work is celebrated in sacred memory by the Church on fixed days throughout the year. Each week on the day called the Lord’s Day the Church commemorates the Lord’s resurrection. Once a year at Easter the Church honors this resurrection and passion with the utmost solemnity. In fact through the yearly cycle the Church unfolds the entire mystery of Christ and keeps the anniversaries of the saints.
“During the different seasons of the liturgical year, the Church, in accord with traditional discipline, carries out the formation of the faithful by means of devotional practices, both interior and exterior, instruction, and works of penance and mercy. “ (General Norms of the Liturgical Year and Calendar, Chapter 1.1)
The Church’s liturgical year begins with Evening Prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent.
The seasons of the Church’s liturgical year that celebrate a specific aspect of the mystery of Christ’s life and mission are Advent, Christmas, Lent, the Easter Triduum and Easter.
The remaining 33 or 34 weeks (depending on the year) of the yearly cycle make up Ordinary Time.
During Ordinary Time, as the days progress through the year, the Church celebrates the fullness of the mystery of Christ, especially on Sundays. Unlike those seasons where special focus is given to:
Ordinary Time recalls the events and mystery of Christ’s life in their totality.
It may have seemed to you at times, that this time is, well, ordinary; in the sense that it is not as important. But that is not so. Prior to the new missal that followed Vatican II, these days were referred to as related to Sundays after Epiphany and Sundays after Pentecost. This time is called Tempus per annum, “time through the year.” It is from this that we render in English, Ordinary Time. Rather than meaning unimportant, it means ordered, as in Ordered Time.
Ordinary Time, then, is also a time during which we can grow closer to the Lord and deepen our spiritual lives. Here are five suggested practices to get the most out of our observance of Ordinary Time. These are things we can do any time, but let’s use them to renew our commitment to Christ throughout the year.
The celebrations and seasons of the Liturgical Calendar, including Ordinary Time, along with all the other occasions and event that mark our passage through time, should serve to remind us that we are not accidents of nature, but rational beings create by and loved of God who made us for a high purpose. Let us take comfort and be inspired by this knowledge and seek always to give Glory, Praise and Honor to our God!
Into the deep…
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