Ordinary Time: Winter
A Sense of the Season
What do the words Ordinary Time mean? Dorothy Day said, “The words ‘Ordinary Time’ in our prayer books put me in a state of confusion and irritation. To me, no time is ordinary.” She was right. The Ordinary in Ordinary Time refers to ordinal—counted—time, not to a lack of something to celebrate. The Roman document, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, says: “Apart from those seasons having their own distinctive character [Advent, Christmastime, Lent, Triduum and Eastertime], 33 or 34 weeks remain in the yearly cycle that do not celebrate a specific aspect of the mystery of Christ. Rather, especially on the Sundays, they are devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects.” (#43)
How do we celebrate “the mystery of Christ in all its aspects”? We gather every Sunday. Sunday is our original feast day. Christians have gathered every Sunday—the day of Christ’s resurrection, the first day of the week—ever since there were Christians.
Each year there are two blocks of Ordinary Time, one in the winter between Christmastime and Lent, and the other in summer and fall, from Pentecost through Christ the King. When we gather on Sundays in Ordinary Time, as always, we hear the scriptures proclaimed. We systematically read through the gospels. The first readings from the first testament of the Bible were chosen for their relationship to the gospel passages. The second readings come from the various letters of the second testament of the Bible. The mystery of Christ “in all its aspects” unfolds.
What is the heart of our Sunday celebration? We do our eucharist; that is, we do our thanksgiving. We praise and thank God for all creation; we pray for the whole world, as we remember Christ’s life, death and resurrection. We share the bread and wine, the body and blood. We are sent forth to be the body and blood of Christ in our homes, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our towns, our cities, our country, our world.
“What happens in our churches every Sunday is the fruit of our week. What happens as the fruit of the week past is the beginning of the week to come. Sunday is simultaneously a point of arrival and departure for Christians on their way to the fullness of the kingdom. This is not ordinary at all. This is the fabric of Christian living.” (Saint Andrew Bible Missal [Brooklyn: William J. Hirten Co., 1982.])
Copyright © 1997, Liturgy Training Publications, 1800 North Hermitage Avenue, Chicago IL 60622-1101; 1-800-933-1800. Text by G. Thomas Ryan.