Wednesday, January 11, 2006

In praise of Ordinary Time

"Ordinary Time" is back...and I like it.

Don't get me wrong, Advent and Christmas were great; but there are some nice things about "Ordinary" time.

First, let me explain what "ordinary" time means: it has to do with things being "ordered" -- hence the proper bishop of a diocese is the "ordinary," the "rulebook" that tells how to do things is called an "ordo," and numbers that indicate order are called "ordinal": first, second, etc. From this comes the idea of "routine," which can be dull; but it is also helpful.

So this is why I've been putting quotes around "ordinary" above: to invite you to consider that it may not mean quite what you think it does. Part of the idea is that it means "counted time": note that we designate each week by a number -- as well as each year: we are counting both from and to certain key events: the birth of Christ* and the coming of the Lord at the end of . . . wait for it . . . time. Hence what is inbetween? "Counted time": ordinary time. (This is why my green vestment has an alpha and an omega on it: in a sense, all time between the actual Nativity and the end is "ordinary time," and Christ is supreme over all.)

I like to point out the color green is useful because it reminds us of growth and life: Ordinary Time is "growing" time; while we await the Lord's return, we grow in grace and holiness, allowing him to transform us to be fit to meet him.

Ordinary time has certain charms to me, as a priest.

One is the mostly continuous readings at daily Mass, and to a lesser extent, Sunday. Last year, I was able to do a series of homilies on the Letter to the Hebrews. Both my parishioners and I learned something about that incredible section of Scripture. Insofar as daily Mass is attended by regulars, it is possible to pick up somewhat where one left off, and thus build on what was discussed previously. Insofar as at daily Mass, both the first reading and the Gospel are continuous, I can shift back and forth, both in my own study and reflection, and in what I share in homilies, if trying to focus simply on one or the other might become tedious.

Another thing I like is there are many options for the choice of prayers for Mass. Sometimes priests will say, to other priests, they get tired of the "same old" thing. Perhaps in decades to come, I will feel that. But as it is, I find more than enough options in how I offer Mass. I can offer Mass for various needs -- yesterday, "for the sick" seemed apt -- and I can offer a votive Mass at various times -- if the Gospel mentions the Apostles, a votive Mass to the Apostles may be called for.

Also, in Ordinary Time, I can use the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer, which I like very much; but because it has a proper preface, it should not be used except in Ordinary Time. There are other Eucharistic prayers that can be used, although there is a good argument to be made that too much variation is unhelpful. Again, I think daily Mass is a more suitable place for such variety, whereas at Sunday Mass, I prefer to stick to three Eucharistic Prayers: the Roman Canon, EP III, and (during Ordinary Time), EP IV.

Finally, I like praying the breviary in Ordinary Time -- it is simpler to do, less flipping around! -- and the practice of the routine is helpful, spiritually.

If you're tuned into what's really going on, there's nothing "blah" about "Ordinary" Time.

* Hence Anno Domini denotes each year since the moment of his birth, alas inexactly calculated -- and therefore, "A.D." properly is always put before the year, not after. If we were saying it in a more modern-English fashion, I guess we'd say this is the 2,006th year of our Lord; but since we don't say that, we should say, in the year of our Lord 2006: A.D. 2006.


Jenny said...

Thanks for this meditation father. I had been clinging to the Christmas season thinking that I wasn't ready for it to be over yet. You've inspired me to pickup my neglected breviary.

It is great hearing the progression of the stories in daily Mass. The church I go to for daily Mass rotates the presiders through the week. I bet your parishioners really enjoy your ongoing sermons. Then it feels like you are on a journey together with Samuel.

I love going to the daily Mass. I go to the 6:30 am, so it is a sacrifice, but I've been amazed at the graces from it. I think of going to Mass like dating your true love. The more time you spend together, the more time you want to spend. The more often I go to Mass, the more I look forward to the next one. Private prayer is like a call or letter to Jesus. At Mass, He is physically present.

Gregaria said...

That's really true!

Thanks for the meditation, Father.