Spiritual Life

Ordinary Time ‘celebrates the saving work of Christ’

Summer in the archdiocese is very green. All around, the fields, gardens and outdoor spaces have clothed themselves in various shades of verdant splendor. Green is a sign of life and growth; and for one who works the land, it holds within it the hope of a fruitful harvest to come.

Even inside our churches, the color green dominates the landscape at this time of year. It reminds us that our faith also is alive and continually growing, as is our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Green expresses the theological virtue of hope, as we look forward in expectation to the Second Coming of Christ and the final harvest. Furthermore, the color green is often associated with the activity of the Holy Spirit, who is “the Lord, the giver of life.” Green, then, is the perfect color to mark this time of life and growth after Pentecost, when the life-giving Spirit was richly poured out upon the Church bringing her to birth and inaugurating her mission in the world.

The Church calls this period of the liturgical year Tempus per Annum. Though translated literally as Time through the Year, it is officially rendered in English as Ordinary Time. Incidentally, the word ordinary is derived from the word order, which describes how something is arranged and organized. Further, ordinal numbers are counting numbers (e.g., first, second, third, etc.), and so Ordinary Time is ordered by the counting of the Sundays of the year (e.g., The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time).

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Church did not define Ordinary Time as a standalone season of the Church’s year. Rather, the periods after the Christmas and Easter seasons were simply described as either the Time after Epiphany or the Time after Pentecost. For example, this year, the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time would have been called the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost. The logic of the post-conciliar calendar is to give this particular time of the Church’s year its own identity rather than to define it merely as a duration after some other season or feast.

The Church describes Ordinary Time in this way: “Holy Church celebrates the saving work of Christ on prescribed days in the course of the year with sacred remembrance. … Besides the times of the year that have their own distinctive character, there remain in the yearly cycle 33 or 34 weeks in which no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ itself is honored in its fullness, especially on Sundays.” (Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 1, 43.  Emphasis mine.)

Ordinary Time highlights the primacy of Sunday as the feast of the Church, the kernel of the entire liturgical year, and the primary Christian holy day. In this way, we are reminded that the life of the Church revolves around the commemoration of the Lord’s Resurrection on the first day of the week. Having been transformed by the saving mysteries of Jesus Christ, we are invited to grow in our relationship with Him, to become missionary disciples, and to work at building up the kingdom of God. More than a mere duration of weeks between major feasts, Ordinary Time offers us a prolonged encounter with the Risen Christ, who nourishes us with Word and Sacrament until he comes again.

Father Jeffery Loseke is pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Gretna.

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