We have returned to what is called “Ordinary Time”, when green vestments bedeck our clergy and altars. What does this mean? After all, this green season seems to have no specific festal or penitential meaning.
The two divisions of Ordinary Time, one rather short and the other stretching the whole of summer and autumn, were (and still are in the traditional Roman calendar) associated with feasts; namely, the seasons after Epiphany and after Pentecost. This association provided a cohesion now somewhat lacking in the post-conciliar calendar.
There is nothing “ordinary” about “Ordinary” Time. “Ordinary” is from the Latin word ordo, “a regular row, line, or series, methodical arrangement, order” having the impact of “proper order… orderly”. Alas, the English “Ordinary Time” sounds so bland. One cleric of my acquaintance, raised in London and the school at Westminster before World War II, sardonically dubbed the two parts of Ordinary Time, “Greater and Lesser Meatloaf Season”. Liturgical books, however, call this time the “tempus per annum … the time through the year” just as they did before the Second Vatican Council.
Speaking of “orderly”, just as the sacrament of Holy Orders is intended to bring good order to the People of God through teaching, governing and sanctifying, Ordinary Time should bring order to our daily lives through the year.
God’s providential plan for salvation history is manifested in the Church’s liturgical year stretching from the Lord’s birth and the Magi adoring the infant King (Advent to Epiphany) through His Sacrifice, Resurrection, Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit (Lent to Pentecost). During “Orderly” Time we reflect on the fact that one day we will either pass through death or the “Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). One way or the other, we shall meet the Judge. Thereafter, Christ the King will usher in the unending reign of peace.
The Church’s green vestments are a sign of hope. Yes, we can live holy lives with the help of grace. Yes, we can persevere. Yes, we fall, but we can get back up. Yes, we are wounded but we remain God’s images and we are good. Yes, we can be saved. Let’s get our lives in order.
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