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A Time to Grow

A Time to Grow

by The Reverend Dr. Roman D. Roldan on May 22, 2024

TLDR: Ordinary time is the longest season of the liturgical calendar. It is a time of growth and discipleship. Please read on for more about this season and what you can expect in church.

We just celebrated Pentecost Sunday this last week. The Church has historically celebrated its birthday on this feast. In fact, the Collect for 5-19-24 stated as much, “On this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit.” I tend to believe the Church was born when Jesus of Nazareth gathered a ragtag group of friends around himself, but I do believe Pentecost turned a local movement into a universal phenomenon. By the end of the first century, we had over a million Christians around the known world of the day. This was an incredible number of people for the time. The Collect for this day prays, “Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth.” It was exactly the preaching of the Good News of Jesus across the known world that accounted for the growth in the first century. This petition is still valid for today. Many, even in America, have not heard a winsome presentation of the Gospel in ways that inspire them to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This remains a major task of the Church: To incarnate the Good News in as many cultures and places as the Holy Spirit will allow us, that “the whole world may come within the reach of Christ’s saving embrace.”

The feast of Pentecost marks the beginning of a new liturgical season for our Church. It goes from the day after Pentecost Sunday (5-20-24) to the Saturday after the Feast of Christ the King (11-30-24.) We call this an “Ordinal or Ordinary” season. The name points not to ordinary, as in common, routine, or unremarkable, but as in “counted time.” Basically, what we are saying is that all Sundays in this long season will be named for the order in which they appear: The First Sunday after Pentecost, The Second Sunday after Pentecost, etc. The season can have between Twenty-Three and Twenty-Eight Sundays, depending on the date for Easter for that year. This Ordinary season will have Twenty-Seven Sundays, which include the feasts of the Holy Trinity (5/26), Christ the King (11/24), All Saint’s Day (11/3), and Thanksgiving Day (11/28).

There are a few specific features of this season: First, we return to the color Green, which points to a season of growth in the Christian faith, with themes highlighting the expansion of the Church in New Testament times. Second, we use a specific ordinary-time salutation (During the Easter season we start every liturgy with the acclamation, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen” to which people respond, “The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.” But in Ordinary time we say, “Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to which people respond, “And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.”) Third, we return to the Old Testament for the first reading of Scripture (During the Easter season we use Acts for the first reading.) Fourth, we welcome back the general confession, which we omitted during the Easter season. Fifth, with the exception of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and All Saints, which have specific prefaces (B.C.P., 380,) we return to the Ordinary Prefaces found on pages 377 and top of 378 in the B.C.P. Sixth, although the priest is allowed to use a final blessing of their choice, we return to the customary final blessing we use for Ordinary time, (“The peace of Christ which passes all understanding, keep your minds and hearts in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. And the blessing of God Almighty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you always. Amen.) And Seventh, although we keep some Alleluias, we will not use them in our final dismissal. This always trips people up, so pay attention (We end with a variation of, “Let us go forth in the name of Christ,” or “Let us go forth to serve and love the Lord” and people answer, “Thanks be to God.” NO ALLELUIAS.)

Now, when you look at any version of the Revised Common Lectionary, you will see the word “Proper” assigned to a Sunday. This may be confusing because the Twenty-Nine Propers for Ordinary (a set of Scripture readings, collects, and prayers assigned to a specific date in a liturgical calendar) start on the Sunday closest to May 8 (In 2024 this fell on May 5. This is the earliest the season can begin.) Because Ordinary time is determined by the date of Easter Sunday, the start of the season changes year to year. What this means is that the season for 2024 will begin two weeks after that May 8th start date, and we will have to jump the first two Propers. Since the First Sunday after Pentecost this year is also Trinity Sunday, which has its own set of readings and prayers, we will also jump Proper 3. What this means is that Proper 4 will be assigned to the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5 to the Third, and so on. Liturgy and Lectionary writing can be more complex than numerology or Algebra!

This growing season that began this week will be the longest block of Sundays of the liturgical calendar, occupying a bit more than half of the year. This is just how nature works. Planting and harvest times are usually brief, it is the stuff in the middle that takes the most time. This reflects our lives as well. As important as our birth and death are, it is the time in the middle that really matters. Discipleship, (or what many call “holiness,” or “the process of sanctification”) is a life-long process in which we grow in faith, hope, discernment, knowledge, commitment, and love of God. It takes effort and intentionality, but it also takes time.  

May this season lead you into a deeper relationship with God through Christ. May our Lord continue to bless you,

Fr. Roman+

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