The Church does not simply conserve tradition for the sake of tradition. It likewise does not seek change merely for the excitement of change. This is because the Church is not fixated on conservation or liberation, it is fixated on truth.
It is Friday of the first week of ordinary time. Welcome! We are past the whirlwind that surrounds Christmas and the new year. We are not yet to the penitential season of Lent where we all gird our loins; dress is sack cloth, bathe in ash, and the most difficult of all -- fast from chocolate. We surely won’t see Easter décor in stores until the shelves are purged of pink and red hearts and overpriced Valentine’s Day chocolate. No, here we are in the midst of ordinary time. Does that mean however, that we are in the midst of insignificant, inconsequential or even 'boring' time? NO! By heavens no, ordinary time is wonderfully and gloriously ordered to the praise reverence and Glory of God.
What does ordinary time mean? Is it simply a boring mundane period of drudgery, a time of bland continuation? Or, perhaps, is it more? By jove! I believe we've asked the right question. Is there more to the word ordinary than our normal interpretation of the term.
All too often we interpret ordinary as lesser. Less significant, less entertaining, less exciting. This is however a bad interpretation. Ordinary, as used in the Church vernacular comes from the Latin ordinalis. In English, ordinalis means something akin to "Being numbered in a sequence." It is the Latin root from which we get the word ordered. When we use the term ordinary in the Church we are referring to order. Priests are the ordinary Eucharistic ministers. The priest consecrates the host and feeds the Church. There is nothing mundane about that, but it is ordinary in the order of God’s gifts in the sacraments. Baptism is our ordinary means to eternal life by which we are cleansed from original sin, but baptism is far from being unimportant or insignificant.
The prefix “extra-“ is added to the word ordinary. Extra means “outside of.” Therefore, extraordinary means “outside of the ordinary.” We have extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. By the mercy and mystery of God there may be extraordinary avenues of salvation through Jesus outside of baptism. The presence of these extraordinary realities does not make the ordinary less significant. Often, the ordinary is more significant because it is ordered so.
So what does this mean for ordinary time? It means that we are living in the ordered life of the Church. In Advent we have a season of anticipatory repentance awaiting hopefully the coming of Christ. The Christmas season is the celebration of the Incarnation. Lent is the great penitential season preparing to enter into the Paschal mystery of Jesus. Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and defeat of death. Ordinary time however encompasses this all. It is the time of the liturgical year when we are neither explicitly feasting or fasting, but rather we are ordered to the entirety of the mystery of God. The extraordinary seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter direct us to recall and reflect on special and specific mysteries of the life of Christ. Ordinary time invites us to enter into contemplation and anticipation of the beatific vision in heaven toward which we all ought to be ordered.
The more we learn of the ordered nature of the Church, ordered to the praise reverence and honoring of God while awaiting the second coming of Christ, the more we realize the depth, beauty and wisdom of the Church. There is a wealth of spiritual knowledge in the liturgical year of the Church and I will highlight many of these in articles to come.
Until then, friends, join me in ordinary time while we strive to ever more order ourselves toward God and eternity!