Resurrection Chapel National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Welcome to Ordinary Time

The first half of the church calendar (approximately December – May) concerns itself with narrating the Incarnation of Christ: his coming, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection.  Jesus of Nazareth is the one Christians acknowledge as Savior, Son of God and Lord of all creation.  This revelation unfolds through a series of fasts and feasts: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost.

With Trinity Sunday we transition into a period of the calendar called “Ordinary Time,” which lasts until the Saturday before Advent.  (There is also a short stretch of ordinary time beginning on the fifth Sunday after Epiphany and ending the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.)

The English term "Ordinary Time" comes from the Latin tempus per annum translated "time through the year.”  Its present form took shape in the Roman Catholic liturgical reforms initiated in 1970, and adopted by most Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican communions, which were already cooperating in development of a common lectionary, known today as the Revised Common Lectionary.  The liturgical color normally used in Ordinary Time is green, with red appearing from time to time, as on Reformation Sunday (nearest October 31) and various national days of thanksgiving.

I have to confess to not being a great fan of the terms currently associated with, “Ordinary Time.”  When I was ordained forty-one years ago, Sundays were designated “After Trinity,” and some years later that was changed to “After Pentecost.”  That had the effect of setting this long season in relation to the rest of the church year.  Within the present nomenclature of “Ordinary Time” Sundays are labeled, “Proper 1,” “Proper 2,” with different traditions designating special feasts and commemorations along the way.  In all honesty I find this designation rather cold and bloodless – it doesn’t evoke any kind of image or suggest an orientation to anything.  What, after all, is a “Proper?”  For this reason, blog entries will refer to “Sundays After Pentecost,” though the weekly lectionary listing and collect will include the “Proper” number in parentheses.

Readers will notice that postings in Ordinary Time will not be tied closely to a continuing narrative in the way that they are in the Advent – Pentecost cycle.  This period of months allows the raising of multiple topics of interest, with more attention to, well, the ordinary aspects of our faith and practice.  There may be an occasional guest blogger, and I would very much welcome suggestions of topics.  If you feel moved to suggest something, click on “Comment” below, or drop an email to hmacmullen@gmail.com.

Howard MacMullen
© June, 2012

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