Ordinary TimeOur bishop recently wrote to the diocese, “The season of Epiphany extends to Ash Wednesday”.

Well, in Canada, yes. And in The Episcopal Church. But not in New Zealand Anglicanism. Not this year anyway (yep, two years ago it was true here).

In this year’s NZ Anglican Lectionary(PDF download), this coming Sunday (29 January) is the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany [Puhleeez can we not get into the issue that the Lectionary also has it as the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple which, it says, “should not be displaced by any other celebration“].

But, this year in the Lectionary, the following Sunday, (5 February) is not the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany. No, this year that is called the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

I approach liturgy as an ever-deepening spiral; re-visiting things at a deeper level year by year, week by week, day by day. NZ Anglicanism regards this as boring. Everything must be constantly different, ever-changing. No one may ever have a clue what we will do next.

Last year (2011), the 4th Sunday after Epiphany was followed by (…go on try to guess…) the 5th Sunday before Lent (as well as the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time)! [There are no “Sundays before Lent” this year, 2012.]

2010 was different again. That was the year, as I mentioned, that Epiphany did extend all the way to Ash Wednesday! It also included Ordinary Sundays not starting randomly at 5 – they started at Ordinary 1. The 5th Sunday after the Epiphany was also the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the 2nd Sunday before Lent and…. ummm… Proper 5 (whatever that means!)

2009 had 4 Sundays after Epiphany and then went to Ordinary Sundays, but included counting backwards to Lent from the 3rd Sunday before Lent and with Proper Sundays.

2008 … no Proper Sundays…

I regularly get emails such as the following [edited]:

I have been a Licensed Lay Minister in *** Parish for some ** years…

My own Ministry has focused on aspects of the ‘Ministry of the Word’, in particular the preparation of summary ‘Reading Notes’ to accompany the three Biblical Readings chosen from the Lectionary for each Sunday Eucharist throughout the year. Once a year (usually mid November, when the new Lectionary is available) we hold a ‘Lectionary Meeting’ at which we look ahead to the Church Year’s listed readings, picking options from Related or Continuous, and working in the Saints Days relevant to our parish.

On examination, we notice that Lectionary 2012 has changed the nomenclature for several Sundays – specifically those falling after Epiphany/before Lent, after Pentecost and before Advent. For instance:
• 2011 featured 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st Sunday before Lent alongside 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time; but 2012 features only 5th, 6th, 7th Ordinary Sundays with no reference to ‘before Lent’
• 2011 featured Trinity and Te Pouhere Sundays as 1st and 2nd after Pentecost … followed by 3rd, 4th 5th – – – 22nd after Pentecost; but while featuring Trinity, Te Pouhere as 1st, 2nd after Pentecost , 2012 features no other ‘after Pentecosts’ at all – every Sunday thereafter is entitled ‘— Sunday in Ordinary Time’ until Christ the King and then Advent.
Can you comment on the rationale behind these changes? Has there been some discussion in Synod, involving such matters? Why was no mention at all of these changes made in the Introductory section of the Lectionary, or in its end-notes on Liturgical Observances?

We find this hard to understand, … We have no problem with change in the name of progress (particularly if it can be shown to serve a ‘higher purpose’), …

Claudia, a regular contributor here, reinforced the point recently:

I’m just trying to follow the seasons of the Christian calendar in my private daily devotions. I find this kind of thing very hard to follow. I get the impression this document is written primarily for Clergy. Can you recommend a version of the Lectionary out there anywhere suitable for a layperson to follow?

How about NZ Anglicanism (for the love of God) not changing everything every year? How about trying to keep things the same for a few years? OK – that’s too much to ask for those who cannot yet resist the addiction to incessant novelty: try doing baby steps – how about two years in a row, to start with? Just to see how that feels (important motivator in addictive behaviour and in NZ Anglicanism).

I’m quite happy with an Advent/Christmas cycle, and a Lent/Easter cycle, and the rest of the year being ordinary/ordinal (ie “counting”) time. Sure, the way the lectionary works, there’s an afterglow from Christmas/Epiphany, and at the end of the church’s year there’s a moving towards “end” reflections. But I don’t need Ordinary Time to be split into ever-smaller “seasons” (Epiphany followed by Ordinary Time followed by Lent; Pentecost followed by Kingdomtide…) with each “season” seeking its own colour etc.

The incessant search for novelty is, in my opinion, unhelpful, unhealthy, addictive, sinful.

[I created today’s image. You can go to the Liturgy home page where you can get the html if you want to put it on your site]

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