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Living Liturgy: Ordinary is not ordinary

Living Liturgy Catholic Outlook August 2010
During Lent we use the colour purple to help us focus on prayer, penance and love. Photography: Alphonsus Fok and Grace Lu.

Julie Kelly
Julie Kelly.
Living Liturgy with Julie Kelly

When anyone walks into a liturgical space they should be able to tell something of the celebration that is to come.

Coloured swaths of cloth and vestments tell of the particular liturgical season; huge sprays of flowers, small arrangements or no flowers at all sets the ambience for a particular celebration.

The place of the paschal candle, the number of candles lit on the altar, and banners all serve to tell us something of what is to come.

The liturgical year is divided into sacred seasons and feasts, each distinct by appropriate scripture texts. We could look at this as an outsider looking at various events that mark the life of Christ.

Instead, we might understand it as celebrating a single person-event, Jesus Christ. Because we are baptised, Christ’s history has become our history. Each celebration in the Church’s calendar not only recalls that history, but makes it present for us now. Jesus Christ is present and active in the Christian community today.

The symbols of unlit candles on the Advent wreath and the richness of the royal colour purple tell us that Advent is a season of expectation and preparation. Starting four Sundays before 25 December, Advent is a time for us to recall the first coming of Jesus Christ and to also reflect and prepare for the Second Coming at the end of time.

Christmas Day, of course, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus but the Christmas season extends to cover an eight-day period – an octave, which includes the feasts of the Holy Family, Baptism of the Lord, solemnities of Mary Mother of God and Epiphany of the Lord.  This is why white or gold for joy is used during this season.

And on into the Ordinary Time. That does not mean average or boring but comes from the Latin for ordo meaning rank; that is, these weeks are counted.

Ordinary Time comes in two blocks beginning at the end of the Christmas season with the first block finishing on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the second block commencing after the Easter season, the Monday after Pentecost, and continuing until the Saturday before Advent.

The colour for Ordinary Time is green symbolising life and growth and a time when the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ in all its aspects.

The readings are not chosen according to a theme but rather in a continuous fashion to celebrate the life and work of Jesus as proclaimed in the Gospels of Matthew (Year A), Mark (Year B) or Luke (Year C).

During Lent we again use the colour purple to help us focus on prayer, penance and love during this season. It is a time that calls for conversion to Christ that we celebrate in Baptism. Commencing on Ash Wednesday, Lent lasts for 40 days, until Wednesday before Holy Thursday, which commences the Easter Triduum.

The joy of the Easter season is brought home by the use of white or gold and lasts for 50 days until Pentecost and is to be “celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or better as one ‘great Sunday’.” (GIRM 22) We indeed celebrate that Christ is risen and with us.

The Church observes many days that are not related to the Sunday celebration or to the liturgical seasons. Some are important enough to be ranked as “solemnities”; while major observances ranking below a solemnity are referred to as “feasts”. The Church also observes “memorials” of many saints.

The Mass is always the same? Never. This time is ordinary? No way – but a time of growth: Ordinary Time.

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