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November 2017 Posts

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What’s the purpose of Ordinary Time?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 29, November 2017 Categories: Liturgy
Ordinary Time
Its purpose is grander than its name: maturity in Christian living.

From the earliest biblical records, God’s people have recognized ritual time as a divine gift that makes present the blessings of the past. Our Christian liturgical year embraces that understanding. Ordinary is a word we normally use to distinguish something from the unusual. “Ordinary Time” sounds like it marks routine weeks not contained within the more eventful seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter. Yet the mundane truth is, the term comes from the Latin tempus ordinarium, or “measured time.” These are, simply, the numbered weeks of the year, ordered from 1 to 34.

Unlike other seasons that occur in uninterrupted blocks of days, Ordinary Time inhabits two sections of the calendar. The first is a five-to-eight week period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. Ordinary Time is then “interrupted” by the major seasons of Lent and Easter for about 14 weeks. The second, longer block of the season occurs after Pentecost, continuing to the end of the church year on the feast of Christ the King, which would otherwise be the “34th Sunday in Ordinary Time.”

(An aside about the variant weeks: the date of Easter determines the liturgical year. Easter Sunday is determined by the Jewish custom of setting Passover on the first full moon after the spring equinox. Once the date of Easter is determined, we count six and a half weeks back to Ash Wednesday. Whatever time is left between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is the length of the first segment of Ordinary Time, which in turn affects the count of the second.)

This merely establishes the territory of this season. Its purpose is grander than its name: maturity in Christian living. Every Sunday is a “little Easter,” the church fathers remind us. Each Sunday we gather to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, just as each Friday we commemorate his death with abstinence from meat or another sacrificial act. Saturdays within Ordinary Time are observances of Mary, mother of the church, who exemplifies the “yes” of discipleship. Saints’ feasts sprinkled through the weeks recall what martyrs and holy ones have made of their response in faith. The color green marks the vestments and altar cloths to remind us of the growth in the Spirit expected of us. In fact, at an earlier time these ordinal weeks were considered part of Pentecost altogether: a full season of celebrating the life of the Spirit at work in the church.

Scripture: Exodus 12:1-20; 23:14-17; 31:12-17; Leviticus 16:29-34; 23:1-44; John 2:13, 23; 6:4; 13:1; Acts of the Apostles 2:1 

Books: Introduction to the Study of Liturgy, by Albert Gerhards and Benedikt Kranemann (Liturgical Press, 2017)

When I in Awesome Wonder: Liturgy Distilled from Daily Life, by Jill Crainshaw (Liturgical Press, 2017)

The church made Mother Teresa a saint overnight. Why is it taking so long for Bishop Oscar Romero?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Wednesday 29, November 2017 Categories: Pope Francis,Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Oscar Romero
Whether you considered Romero a martyr or a victim of his outspoken politics was a matter of opinion—until recently, when Pope Francis beatified him in 2015.

Oscar Romero (1917-1980), slain archbishop of San Salvador, was as revered by some as deemed controversial by others. Romero studied theology in Rome, served as a bishop’s secretary, edited his diocesan newspaper, pastored the cathedral parish, served as rector of the minor seminary, and was elected to the bishops’ conference of El Salvador as well as the Central American Bishops’ secretariat, all before 1977. For none of these things was he assassinated while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel.

Ironically, Romero was recommended for his office by the same civic leaders who most surely ordered his death. They viewed him as a safe choice in a time of upheaval, with his scholarly manners and reluctance toward public action. A month after Romero was made archbishop, however, his friend Jesuit Rutilio Grande was murdered for his support of guerillas fighting the U.S.-backed military dictatorship. Romero—cautious, conservative, and steadfastly un-political—was shocked into reconsidering his silence about the injustices borne by the poor of his country.

Whether you considered Romero a martyr or a victim of his outspoken politics was a matter of opinion—until recently, when Pope Francis beatified him in 2015. As early as 2007, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina referred to the slain Archbishop as a martyr and declared: “If I were pope, I would have already canonized him.”

If a person dies for the faith, isn’t that an automatic pass into sainthood? Yes: but only if it’s clear that the death is related to matters of faith. In Romero’s case, accusations flew that he was “Che Guevara in a cassock”: a communist, a Marxist, or a liberation theologian. The latter theology is a mode of thought that some have characterized as a mixing class theory with religious principles. The question remained on the table for a long time: was Archbishop Romero martyred for defending the gospel against its enemies, or for stepping into a military struggle he had no business with in the first place?

Romero traveled to Rome four times in the three years he served as Archbishop to explain that it was the gospel that convicted him to side with the poor against their oppressors and murderers. His homilies were broadcast on the radio across his small country. Weekly he read the names of the dead who fell to the military. He encouraged soldiers not to follow orders that were unjust. His canonization may soon verify that speaking truth to power remains a vocation of the church.

Scripture: Ezekiel 2:1-10; 3:17-21; John 10:17-18; 14:6; 15:13, 18-27; 16:13; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 3:16

Books: Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings, by Marie Dennis, et. al. (Orbis Books, 2000)

Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out, by Kevin Clarke (Liturgical Press, 2014)

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