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“Ordinary Time”

2010 January 12
by Gordon Reid

I don’t like the neo-Roman description of the weeks after Epiphany, and then after Pentecost, as “Ordinary Time”. I’m glad St Clement’s (and a growing number of other churches, Roman and Anglican) continue to describe the Sundays of these seasons as Sundays after the Epiphany, or Sundays after Pentecost or Trinity.

No time is ordinary. Every day is precious, and may well be a day of immense importance. It may be the day we meet the person with whom we will share our lives; it may be the day when we do or say something that turns another person to Jesus Christ and his love; it may be a day when we fall into sin, but get the grace and strength to pick ourselves up and say “Sorry”. But it will certainly not be an “ordinary” day.

Even in the liturgical calendar, there is no such thing as an ordinary day. There is a saint to be celebrated every day of the year, though not all are in the universal calendar. The Mass can be offered for some very extraordinary people and situations. Unique people come to Mass or to Evensong.

If I were going to a party and someone said “Have a perfectly ordinary time”, I’d think they were pretty peculiar. When I go to a party I want to have a special time, meeting special people, doing special things, eating and drinking special wine and food. Well, that’s what is supposed to happen at the Mass. Sadly, the “Ordinary Time” people often cast such a gloom that one leaves the church echoing the sharp riposte of a grande dame, who swept out, saying to her hostess: “I’ve had a simply marvellous evening; but this wasn’t it”!

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Disgusted in DC permalink
    January 12, 2010

    I agree. I think “ordinary time” is a terrible translation of “tempus per annum.” I would like to think that the new English translation of the Roman Missal coming out soon will fix this, but I have my doubts. (I haven’t seen, so I don’t know.)

  2. January 12, 2010

    Few people, save for the most precious liturgical experts, have bee pleased with that poor translation. Amazing how much unhappiness such a simple and minor thing can cause.

  3. David O'Rourke permalink
    January 13, 2010

    The term per infra annum doesn’t seem to have worked out so well in English. The numbering stops with Lent and then picks up again after Trinity Sunday as if nothing had happened in between. As result, in the early days of the Novus Ordo I once heard one of those commentators on a Sunday in June greet the people with, “Good morning! This is the 5th sunday of the year!”

    I prefer the “Sundays after…” designation and sometimes I just refer to the season as “Greentide”. It’s consistent with “Processiontide” etc.

  4. January 13, 2010

    While the translation may not be the best or accurate I wonder if there isn’t something helpful in the concept of “ordinary time” especially when viewed as the time after the Pentecost. For the most part our life consists of ordinary everyday stuff – we tend to live by routines and habits. I agree with you that “no time is ordinary” but I view the season after Pentecost, ordinary time, as that liturgical season that recognizes most of our life is ordinary but challenges us to to discover the sacrament of each moment, the extraordinary in the ordinary.

    Peace, Mike+

  5. January 13, 2010

    429 South 20th St. #A Dr. Rudolph Masciantonio, Chairman
    Philadelphia, PA 19146 William A. Torchia, Esquire, Vice Chairman
    Telephone: 215 732-6431
    E Mail:
    Advisory Council: Dr. Harold Boatrite, Jean Buckalew Dr. Lucy E. Carroll, Anthony Corvaia, Jane Errera, Dr. Francis X. Kelly, Esq., Michael J. Miller, Dr. Timothy S. McDonnell, Charles L. Myers, Dr. Temple Painter, Father Robert C. Pasley, KHS, John F.X. Reilly, Esq.

    January 11, 2010
    To: Members and Friends of the Philadelphia Chapter, Latin Liturgy Association, Inc.
    Re: Solemn Vespers in Latin according to the Liber Usualis Each Sunday at 3:00 PM at St. Clement’s (Episcopal) Church, 20th and Cherry Sts., Philadelphia 19103

    Solemn Vespers with incense and candlelight are now celebrated in a lovely setting each Sunday at 3:00 PM in St. Clement’s (Episcopal) Church, 20th and Cherry Sts., in Center City Philadelphia. The traditional Liber Usualis based on the Breviarium Romanum is employed. A small schola is forming under the direction of Bernard Kunkel, Associate Organist at St. Clement’s, to sing the antiphons and hymns in Gregorian chant and alternate with the congregation in the chanting of the psalms of Vespers according to the traditional (pre-1960) calendar and employing the Solemnes method. Texts of Vespers in Latin and English are provided for the congregation.
    New singers for the schola are most welcome, even if they can only participate occasionally. Rehearsals for the schola are at 2:00 PM. each Sunday. Traditional Latin Vespers at St. Clement’s just started this Advent. It is hoped that the size of the schola and the congregation can be expanded gradually.
    Vespers (which may be attended by itself) is followed by traditional Benediction (also in Latin) and novena prayers to Our Lady Of Clemency. The three services together are less than an hour in length.
    The Rev’d W. Gordon Reid, Rector of St. Clement’s, welcomes visitors to Solemn Vespers and extends a special invitation to members of the Latin Liturgy Association, Inc. and their friends. St. Clement’s is “an Anglo-Catholic parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.” The telephone number is 215 563 1876. The website is
    Thank you for giving this message your attention. Deus Pater Omnipotens sit nobis propitius et clemens!

    Most cordially,
    Rudy Masciantonio

    Dr. Rudolph Masciantonio
    Chairman, Philadelphia Chapter, Latin Liturgy Association, Inc.
    429 S. 20th St. #A
    Philadelphia, PA 19146
    215 732-6431

  6. January 13, 2010

    In ‘better days’ we called such time as Sundays after the Epiphany’ , Sundays after Trinity or Pentecost and in the medieval periods Sundays were often described as being after important feasts such as SS Peter and Paul etc.

    The idea of ‘ordinary time’ which I don’t think sounds any better in Latin either is very modern. The 1948 document that Pius XII’s Commission worked on in implementing the stages of reform in the 1950s refers to ‘Dominicae per annum’ etc

    Well said Canon Reid, there should be nothing ‘ordinary’ about liturgy and our relationship with the Divine.

    P.S. A blessed 2010 to you all at St. Clements

  7. Anonymous permalink
    January 19, 2010

    I heard at some point, I no longer remember where, that “ordinary time” was not to be understood as “ordinary” but rather, etymologically, as “ordinal,” i.e. “counted” time. Am I wrong about this? It certainly seems a more apt description of the season when considered in this light.

  8. January 19, 2010

    That’s how it had been explained to me the first time I encountered it, so is always how I’ve understood it. I was perplexed when I saw somebody on an internet forum refer to it as “normal time”. Then I realised he was understanding “ordinary” in quite a different way.

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