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Proper Ordinary Time

I am receiving a lot of questions: why is this the 8th week in Ordinary Time? Why is my church using Proper 3 for the office? (from someone in TEC USA). The answer is not simple.

There are 52 or 53 Sundays in a year, depending on the year. 4 are for Advent, 1 or 2 for Christmas (depending on the year), 6 for Lent, 8 for Easter = a total of at least 19 Sundays. In a year of 53 Sundays we would need another 34 Sundays – that’s the maximum number we need. Sometimes we won’t need 34 – where do we drop a Sunday not needed? The contemporary lectionary system has decided to drop such a Sunday in the moving Lent-Easter period, so that the Church Year always ends on the 34th Sunday. Do the maths and you’ll find the Sunday before Advent, the Last Sunday of the Church Year (#34), is always between November 20 and 26. It is also the Sunday closest to November 23. Counting backwards #33 is always between November 13 and 19. It is also the Sunday closest to November 16. And so on backwards.

Ordinary Time numbering:

(used, for example by the Roman Catholic Church. The Canadian BAS calls them “propers” ie. the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time BAS calls “Proper 7”)

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.

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. So sometimes a week is dropped out – as in 2010. In 2010 the week prior to Lent was the 6th week in Ordinary Time. The week following the Day of Pentecost is the 8th week in Ordinary Time. Next week (following Trinity Sunday) is the 9th week in Ordinary Time. Hence, one can see why Sunday 13 June is the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (actually technically the Sunday in the 11th week of Ordinary Time).

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:

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 after Trinity Sunday.

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

won’t make its mind up. Sunday 6 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. It calls the Acts of the Apostles an “epistle”). The lectionary also calls this the Second Sunday after Pentecost, the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Te Ratapu Tekau ma tahi o He wa ano, and Proper 5 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. Of course if you have a particular thing about St Boniface and want to celebrate him this day, or this year you have a family service on the first Sunday of the month focusing on each of the twelve apostles in turn – no one will be at all surprised…

Further to our current week, the suggestion in the New Zealand Lectionary that the collect for the Day of Pentecost be used during the week following is confused and confusing. I cannot locate the formulary that would have this as advised by the lectionary. Nor can I see any logic in this. Nor can I understand the liturgical purpose of following its suggestion to have two collects.

The Day of Pentecost ends the fifty day season of Easter (that’s what the Greek word “Pentecost” means!) It does not begin a “Pentecost Season”. In the Nicene canons we are forbidden to kneel on Sundays and the Bishops at the Council of Nicaea were horrified to hear of people kneeling during Pentecost – by which they meant the fifty days of what we now call the Easter Season (Council of Nicaea, Canon 20).

During the week following the Day of Pentecost, the collect is that of the eigth week in Ordinary Time. During the week following Trinity Sunday the collect is that of the ninth week in Ordinary Time. Trinity Sunday also is a feast, not the start of a season (except possibly in the Church of England).

Have an extraordinary Ordinary Time.

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14 thoughts on “Proper Ordinary Time”

  1. Basically, on the Catholic Calendar, Week 5 gets skipped if Lent takes place a little early. Week 5 is the week beginning “On or after February 4.” But if it’s already Lent then, you resume after Easter with Week 6.

    1. No – it is nothing like the above comment at all. It is as my post describes. I tried to keep it as simple as possible, but as further clarification is needed to correct misunderstandings such as the above comment, here goes:
      Week 5 is skipped if Easter Day falls March 22-24
      Week 6 is skipped if Easter Day falls March 27-31
      Week 7 is skipped if Easter Day falls April 3-7
      Week 8 is skipped if Easter Day falls April 10-14
      Week 9 is skipped if Easter Day falls April 17-21
      Week 10 is skipped if Easter Day falls April 24-25
      In Leap Years it is as if Easter Day is one day later.
      All other dates for Easter Day means no week is skipped.

    1. That’s a helpful comparison, Vincent. In the table you provide, when that Sunday is not celebrated, the readings are just not read. Some Sundays (eg. the 6th Sunday after Epiphany) will very rarely be read. The value of the system in my post (clarified in a comment of mine with a table) is that if any Sunday is dropped, it is not always the same Sunday. Hope that makes sense.

  2. Gary L Lake Dillensnyder, OSL+

    i was taight “ordinary” are ‘ordinary’ as they are not part of a season leading up to a festical event such as Christmas or Easter. Thus, thus Sundays outside of the Christ/Easter cycle are “ordinary days” (nothing that the Christmas cycle culminates in the Epiphany and the Easter cycle culminates in Penteocst with Trinity Sunday always being the week following Pentecost)….as for the numbering I concur with both the method and the confusion it raises. Peace in the Blessed Triune God!

  3. Gary L Lake Dillensnyder, OSL+

    Also, in liturgical churches there are things in worship that are the “commons” and things that are the “propers”. Commons remain the same week to week where propers change. Thus the use of the word “Proper” as for the days noting the change in calendar through time and the change in lectionary reading per the day, or proper.

  4. Fr Kevin PJ Coffey

    One of my pet peeves has been the use of “Ordinary Time” by congregations of the PECUSA (Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America).

    Recently I was “schooled” by a colleague who pointed out to me that editions of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) printed since the Episcopal Church adopted the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL),indicate the Sundays after “Trinity Sunday” as “Ordinary Time.”
    (The same change is what brought “Christ The King” Sunday to the Episcopal Church.)


  5. First, thank you for your Liturgy website. it is very helpful.

    As a New Zealand Anglican Church, we have the problem that our Lectionary Bible and most of our Lectionary worship resources number the Sundays in Ordinary Time as Proper nn but our Lectionary Te Maramataka only numbers them as Ordinary nn

    I think the translation is:
    Sunday between June 5 & June 11 (10th Sun in Ordinary Time) = Proper 5
    through to
    Sunday between Nov 20 & 26 (34th Sun in Ordinary Time) = Proper 29 / Reign of Christ

    I found translation tables at http://www2.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Ordinary_Time

    and http://www.giamusic.com/sacred_music/musicByDay.cfm

    and in the Introduction to the RCL, from the Consultation on Common Texts at
    there is information that seems to agree.

    It took me a long Google hunt to find even this information. It would be helpful if you could publish a translation table on your website, to give a more accessible cross-reference

    Thank you, and good wishes for liturgy.co

  6. Really good answers as to the “ordinary time” question, but how about the “3rd set of propers” part? Most Sundays in the 1928 lectionary have two sets of propers for Morning and Evening Prayer. Some have 3. Why three?

    1. Thanks, Phil. The “ordinary” of the Eucharist is those parts that we have agreed to but are not tied to a particular Sunday or feast day, eg. the Eucharistic Prayer(s). The “proper” of the Eucharist is those parts that we have agreed to that are tied to a particular Sunday or feast day, eg. the collect, a proper preface, etc. Blessings.

    1. Thanks, Bomsu. I cannot see your example Proper 6 (11) in this post – so I cannot answer your question. Blessings.

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