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Ordinary Time

Extraordinary Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time

Homonyms (words that sound the same) trip up the unwary. Homonyms that are also homographs (words that are spelt the same), more so.

“You are not trying at all” can mean “You are not making any effort” or “You are not annoying”. Homonym-Homographs: Current. Right. Ring. Kind. Rose. Spring. Bright. Match. Well. Fly. If you think of another – do add it in the comments box below…

“Ordinary”, in church-speak, can mean the person in charge (the bishop is the ordinary in this diocese; the abbot is the ordinary in the monastery). It can mean normal. And it can mean counting – as in ordinal numbers: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, … The majority of Christians are in what English-speakers call “Ordinary Time”.

There is nothing “ordinary” about “Ordinary Time”. Ordinary Time is not about common, regular, mundane, or run of the mill. Ordinary Time comes from the word “ordinal” as in “ordinal numbers”. Remember your Maths: Cardinal numbers answer “how many?” “Ordinal Numbers” tell the rank, they answer “what position?” Ordinal Numbers are first, second, third, fourth, etc.

There are normally fifty-two weeks in a year. These are made up of the Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter Seasons. Normally that leaves thirty-three weeks of “Ordinary Time”. Those weeks start from The Baptism of the Lord up to Lent, and start again at the Day of Pentecost. In some weeks, with fifty-three Sundays, there are thirty-four weeks of “Ordinary Time”.

Ordinary weeks count forward from The Baptism of the Lord. After the Day of Pentecost, however, they are checked backwards from the last week of the Church’s Year which is always the 34th week of Ordinary Time. This year, the week prior to Lent is the 8th week in Ordinary Time. Because we have 52 Sundays this year, we only use 33 Ordinary Weeks; so we drop a week. The week following the Day of Pentecost is the 10th week in Ordinary Time. The next week (following Trinity Sunday) is the 11th week in Ordinary Time. Hence, one can see why Sunday 19 June is the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (actually technically the Sunday in the 12th week of Ordinary Time).

Last year had 52 Sundays; this year, 2022, has 52 Sundays; next year, 2023, will have 53 Sundays – so, next year we will need all 34 Ordinary Weeks. This year, a week of Ordinary Time drops out.

Other language groups deal with the numbering differently: Dutch – 3e Zondag door het jaar (3rd Sunday through the year); German – 3e Woche im Jahreskreis (3rd Week in the Year Circle). The Canadian Book of Alternative Services (BAS) calls them “propers” ie. the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time BAS calls “Proper 7”) I am not at all sure why we need a “title” for every Sunday – what is wrong with it simply being Sunday 23 January 2022? The “naming” of Sundays, it seems to me, is only really needed for leaders working out where we are on the readings cycle.

The Sunday after Trinity Sunday is often celebrated as Corpus Christi, and in our church as Te Pouhere Sunday. The Baptism of the Lord, the Day of Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday always replace the “Ordinary Sunday”, other “bold letter” Sundays might also. Each Ordinary Sunday is limited to a particular week in the year. Eg. the 5th Ordinary Sunday is always the Sunday between 4 February and 10 February, the 11th Ordinary Sunday is always the Sunday between 12 and 18 June.

But there is a message when we don’t know where the word “Ordinary” actually derives from. There is a message from “Ordinary Time” when we think it means “usual”, “common”, “every-day”…

Most of the year, 34 weeks, is ordinary – usual, common, every-day… Most of our life, in fact, is ordinary. We need to learn to live with the ordinary. If every day was extraordinary – then that would be ordinary wouldn’t it…

The incarnation (Advent/Christmas), the death and resurrection of Christ (Lent/Easter), make the year extraordinary. Otherwise, all would be ordinary. The incarnation, the death and resurrection of Christ, make our life extraordinary.

How can we help each other make our ordinary lives extraordinary?

The Episcopal Church:

has decided not to title the earlier Sundays in Ordinary Time like that. They are numbering the earlier ones Sundays after Epiphany. They realize that the earliest the Day of Pentecost can be is May 10. So they number “Propers” from the Sunday “closest to May 11”. But the readings are actually the same as above. ie. you either use the readings before Lent, or after Pentecost. Hence for TEC the readings for Proper 1 are just the same as the readings set for the 6th Sunday after Epiphany; Proper 2 is identical with the seventh Sunday after Epiphany. This continues to the ninth Sunday after Epiphany, the greatest number of Sundays possible after Epiphany. (TEC has a “Last Sunday after Epiphany). [TEC’s proper number plus 5 = the Ordinary Sunday number which is the same as BAS proper number].

Common Worship CofE:

Common Worship essentially follows the same lectionary system as the above two. But whereas the above two systems link a collect/opening prayer to the readings, Common Worship acknowledges that there is no theme to the readings and so the collect is independent of the readings. The collect for Common Worship is found by counting Sundays of Epiphany until Candlemas and then backwards to Lent (The Fifth Sunday before Lent,…). Later in the year, Sundays are counted after Trinity Sunday.

The New Zealand Lectionary (of the Anglican Church of Or)

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia attempts to stitch together the Roman Catholic Ordinary Time system with the Northern-Hemisphere-appropriate mother Church of England Epiphany-until-2-February system. The patching together doesn’t work. NZ’s first “Ordinary Sunday” occurs after 2 February – but it isn’t called the First Ordinary Sunday, it is suddenly the “5th Sunday in Ordinary Time”, without any explanation as to what has happened to the other four!!! [Not forgetting that currently is formally “of Epiphany”, but the Lectionary booklet continues to call it “of the Epiphany” time – a 2014 blog post of mine proving wrong]

Throughout the year, the Lectionary booklet won’t make its mind up – turning it into a resource for suggested optional resources rather than a tool for common prayer. Sunday 19 June is given as “Te Pouhere Sunday” (“Designated by General Synod to celebrate our life as a three Tikanga Church” complete with its own set of readings including four options for a gospel reading, and two options each for other readings). The Lectionary also calls this the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Te Ratapu Tekau ma rua o He wā noa iho, and Proper 7 with its own RCL readings. No one will be told off if they call it the First Sunday after Trinity. And there will be a number of communities that will celebrate Corpus Christi on this Sunday with its own readings and collect. The Lectionary booklet further provides Disability Awareness Sunday as another option on this day – the link it provides may not lead far other than to suggest that Disability Awareness Sunday be transferred to the next Sunday. Of course if you have a particular thing about Sadhu Sundar Singh and want to celebrate him this day, or this year you have a family service on the third Sunday of the month focusing on each of the twelve apostles in turn – no one will be at all surprised…

Have an extraordinary Ordinary Time.

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2 thoughts on “Extraordinary Ordinary Time”

  1. Just a little friendly pushback to the idea that only “leaders” need be concerned with knowing names by which to refer to the weeks of Ordinary Time. This mere layperson/baptized Christian needs to know whether it’s Epiphany 2 or Proper 18 (I’m in PECUSA), or I’d be lost as I pray the collects and read the lessons from the Daily Office through the year!

    1. Good point, “T.W.” (please use your ordinary name in comments – with exceptions, I do not allow anonymous comments). I’m not exactly sure where you want the “Epiphany 2” or “Proper 18” published? Do you mean as we start the Sunday service – this be the announcement? Or do you mean it needs to be in the lectionary publication? Your Prayer Book is thorough in pointing out where you are in the Daily Office readings (“Week of the Sunday closest to September 7”). My point was more about my experience when I’m in the pew and the leader says “the Collect for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: ‘Almighty God…'” In a sense, when you are praying the Daily Office, you are the leader (needing to be concerned to find the right readings & collect). I’m fine, in a Season, to be told, “today is the 3rd Sunday of Easter”. Thanks for encouraging some clarification, and it’s great that you and I meet even at a distance as we pray the Daily Office. Blessings.

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