Not So Ordinary Time—Writing Our Acts
The Easter season ended rather abruptly for me with major foot surgery on May 25. Recovery has been slow and painful, with a lot of sleepless nights. The pain and lack of sleep has made it difficult for me to gather my thoughts and write as much as I would like, but in a way it's been a blessing providing room for contemplation and observation on the changing liturgical seasons and summer feasts.
The day after Pentecost Sunday begins Tempus per Annum, known in English as Ordinary Time or Time of the Year. Although there were a few weeks of Ordinary Time earlier in the year in between Epiphany and Lent, these 27 weeks of Ordinary Time is the longest period or season during the Church year. My older son when he was younger noticed how this particular season extended more than half the year and called it the "Great Ordinary Time."
General Norms of the Liturgical Year and the Calendar provides the official description of this season:
43. Apart from those seasons having their own distinctive character, thirty-three or thirty-four 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. This period is known as Ordinary Time.
The "Blah" Time?
So many people refer negatively to this time of the year. It is almost as if this liturgical season (or actually lack thereof) is viewed as a "blah" time, with no events. I do find it unfortunate that the word "ordinary" has now such a negative connotation, implying inferiority or without merit. But ordinary in the Church's use is neither of these. It means both normal, usual or common occurrence, and from the Latin word Ordo meaning "order", with the weeks of Ordinary Time numbered sequentially.
Ordinary Time is our usual time of life, our day-to-day living that should be used as working to our goal of sanctity. We are ordering our life towards God.
The Acts Provide a Map of Ordinary Living
Seeing the proportions of Ordinary Time compared to all of the other liturgical seasons suggests that the Church provides extra tools and graces to live our pattern of everyday living -- so Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter build lessons for living out our "normal" life. The pattern repeats every year, giving opportunity for us to deepen and grow.
One of the particular highlights of the Easter season is the reading of the Acts of the Apostles every day at Mass. We follow the birth and growth of the early Church after the Ascension of Christ. The Acts of the Apostles reads like an action-packed adventure novel, filled with exciting characters all along the journey. Even though it is the tale of the early Christians, the Church chooses to read it during the Easter season to lay the example of how with Baptism and the Holy Spirit, a Christian's life should be changed forever.
Although the readings from Acts during the Easter season end at the feast of Pentecost, the unfolding of the Acts of the Apostles actually provide the map to live out Ordinary Time. It is during Ordinary Time that we live our own Acts.
In Levels II and III of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) (ages 6-12), the child's role in the life of the Church is slowly unveiled. The child discovers how God calls us to use their gifts to write the "Blank Page" as we journey towards the Parousia. Writing the blank page or our "Acts" is part of our Ordinary Time work.
There are three particular areas of daily inspiration from the Acts of the Apostles:
1. Sharing the Gospel
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave the Great Commission to His disciples to spread the Good News or Gospel through all the nations and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, found in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14–18, Luke 24:44–49, Acts 1:4–8, and John 20:19–23.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
This is a task given by Christ that extends to us even this day. Evangelization or sharing the Gospel is our daily obligation. The other seasons of the Liturgical Year concentrate on other mysteries of Christ and give us time to refresh and refuel. But we can’t stay in the Upper Room any longer. It’s now our time to do Christ’s work on earth.
Evangelization is constant, not just meant for religious or missionaries. It's a way of everyday life, by our example, in our words, in our actions, in small and large ways. Everyday life should be living and sharing the Gospel -- and it is during this "ordinary" time that we have more room to do this in our normal life.
2. Living and Growing in our Faith
The Acts of the Apostles unfolds the life of the first Christians after Pentecost. We read of the struggles, joys, sufferings of the early Church. But most important of all is that it is the daily “ordinary” life of the new Christians. Pentecost was a pivotal moment. The Holy Spirit gives the necessary graces to carry on Christ's work.
The Acts describes the “daily grind” of being a Christian. Perhaps this is why people dread Ordinary Time, because it does mean work. It’s the time to labor in increasing our Faith. Ordinary Time is time for prayer, study, reading, and living our Faith.
During Tempus per Annum the Church unfolds the Gospel with all of Christ's teachings, and not just certain aspects related to liturgical seasons. We hear the hard sayings, such as: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." These are our instructions for our daily "ordinary" life.
Green vestments are worn during this liturgical season with the color green being the symbol of hope and victory, but also new life and growth. In the atrium, CGS refers to Ordinary Time as the "growing time." Green is also the color of action, as a green light means “Go” — and a good reminder that Ordinary Time is a time of action and growth, not a mediocre time of laziness.
3. Communion of Saints
Finally, the Acts of the Apostles illustrate the Communion of Saints in action. Not only do we have the unfolding of the work (and death) of the apostles and first martyrs of the Church, but we also read of the community of believers and how they lived their faith:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
The faithful did so much together as a community. It is a good reminder that we also do not live isolated, but our lives are interconnected. We are adopted sons and daughters of God through our Baptism, and we are family, connected through the True Vine. All our growing during Ordinary Time affects the whole Vine, the whole family and not just us individually.
Ordinary Time affords us more time for our immediate family. There is more time for family celebrations and enjoying and nurturing the family life.
Since Ordinary Time does not celebrate particular mysteries of the life of Christ but His whole mystery, this leaves more opening for celebration and inspiration from the Saints who have already lived and written their Acts and enjoying their heavenly reward:
104. The Church has also included in the annual cycle memorial days of the martyrs and other saints. Raised up to perfection by the manifold grace of God and already in possession of eternal salvation, they sing God's perfect praise in heaven and pray for us. By celebrating their anniversaries the Church proclaims achievement of the paschal mystery in the saints who have suffered and have been glorified with Christ. She proposes them to the faithful as examples who draw all men to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she begs for God's favors. (Sacrosanctum Concilium).
The Liturgical Calendar has the greater concentration of Marian and saint days with solemnities, feasts, obligatory and optional memorials during Ordinary Time. Almost all the apostles' feasts fall during Ordinary Time. The summer months in particular are filled with wonderful saints' days, such as the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist celebrated a few days ago, and Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul just a few days later. Various New Testament saints, such as Mary Magdalene (newly elevated to a feast) and Martha, Anne and Joachim, grandparents of Jesus are sprinkled throughout July. The revision of the Roman Calendar moved more important saints' days like St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Benedict to Ordinary Time to ensure celebration instead of being suppressed because of Lent or Advent. Ordinary Time gives more space to study, ask intercession and celebrate our patron and nameday saints.
We are living our own "Acts" particularly during Ordinary Time. The program is already laid, shown through the Acts of the Apostles, to work for evangelization, to increase our faith in the company and to gather support and celebrate with the Communion of Saints. It is with our Family of God that we can find our example, inspiration, and help to write our "blank page" and our own Acts during Ordinary Time. A blah inferior season of the Church? I hardly think so.
My Previous Articles on Ordinary Time:
- Our Ordinary Walk of Life: Understanding Tempus per Annum
- Return to Tempus Per Annum or Ordinary Time
- Summer: More Time for the Lord, Not a Vacation from Him
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