Saturday, December 4, 2021

What does it mean to be in Ordinary Time?

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By Fr. Raymond Mahlmann

We find ourselves in that time of the Church’s liturgical year known as Ordinary Time.

What is Ordinary Time? It sounds boring; actually, it is anything but.

In speaking about the Church’s liturgical year, we necessarily look at the centerpiece of the Church’s liturgical year. The Sacred Triduum, the Sacred Three Days which begin on the evening of Holy Thursday and conclude on the evening of Easter Sunday, are the most sacred 72 hours in the Church’s liturgical calendar. They celebrate the central mysteries of our redemption: the Institution of the Eucharist, the Institution of the Priesthood, the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Christ, and the conferring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles to forgive sins. The Easter Vigil is one of the oldest events in the Church’s liturgy. There is a preparatory penitential season leading up to the Easter season which is known as Lent. Although not as old as the Church’s celebration of Easter but ranking right after the importance of Easter is our celebration of Christ’s birth: Christmas. There is a preparatory season for the celebration of Christmas known as Advent.

The Liturgical seasons of the year.
The Liturgical seasons of the year.

When the Church is not celebrating and drawing our attention to either of these two events – Easter and Christmas – or preparing us for these celebrations, then we are in Ordinary Time. The word “Ordinary” in our common American English usage means regular, or routine. However, in the liturgical use of the word, it means “ordered”. During Ordinary Time we are fed by the Scriptures with “ordered” presentations on lessons and reminders about morality, salvation history, and the revealed teaching by God to his people about himself. The important liturgical event which happens throughout the Church’s year is the Sunday Eucharist. Each time the Eucharist is celebrated we are living the Paschal Mystery: the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. The weekly celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is even more important because it occurs on the first day of the week, the day of the Lord’s resurrection. Sunday is the day of the week when creation was begun and when it was redeemed and completed. It is the day of the week when the entire Catholic Christian community joins together, bringing the events, the accomplishments, the struggles, the victories or the week to offer to God in communion with the offering of Jesus in the Eucharist. When we have been refreshed and strengthened by God’s Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus and drawn a little closer together as members of the “Mystical” Body of Christ, we go forth to face the joys and sorrows, the frustrations and the events of life in the next week, bringing the strength and the presence of Christ to bear on all these things.

Sunday is a time to rest. It is a time when the structure of the rest of the week is let go. God is the Master Player in that he created and then rested on the Seventh Day to “take in” his creation. He invites us to do likewise on his day, the Lord’s Day. This necessarily means that our lives will not be as structured as the other days of the week. We approach God and his good creation without a particular agenda or expected result other than to be present in awe and wonder as gift. In such a situation, the results are not completely predictable. Therefore, Ordinary Time is not boring; it is exciting.

Fr. Raymond Mahlmann is a priest of the Diocese of Gallup.

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