Author Archive for Tom Schenk

Ordinary Time

Besides the times of the year that have their own distinctive character, there remains in the yearly cycle thirty-three or thirty-four weeks in which no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ itself is honored in its fullness—the Church contemplates the entire mystery of salvation—especially on Sundays.  This period is known as Ordinary Time.

But “Ordinary” does not mean boring or ho-hum, but the word “ordinary” comes from the word “ordinal” which means counted (i.e. First Week of Ordinary Time, Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, etc.).

Ordinary Time then, is a period that is counted that doesn’t fall in Lent, Easter, Advent, etc.  Ordinary Time begins at the conclusion of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is also the end of the Christmas Season.

Ordinary Time has two defined periods: the first period begins after the Baptism of the Lord and continues through the day before Ash Wednesday; and the second begins after Pentecost and continues to Evening Prayer on the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent. (8:7)

Christmas Season

The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which normally falls on the Sunday following the Epiphany, as it does this year.

The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the oldest Christian feasts, though, throughout the centuries, it has celebrated a variety of things.  Epiphany comes from a Greek meaning “to reveal,” and all of the various events celebrated by the Feast of the Epiphany are revelations of Christ to humanity.

During the Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him.

Our celebration of Christmas does not end on December 26, rather Christmas season ends and the return to Ordinary Time occurs at the conclusion of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is on January 13.  (8:6)

Christ

The use of “Christ,” meaning “the anointed,” the “Messiah,” as a proper name became common after the death of our Lord, particularly in the writings of St. Paul.  It might be used either before or after the name “Jesus.”  Its use by St. Paul declared the Apostle’s belief and affirmation of the divinity of Jesus.

However, the word Kyrios in Greek is a translation of the Aramaic equivalent of “the prophesied king.”  Thus, Jesus fulfilled in His Incarnation the promise made to Abraham, as given in the genealogy found in the first chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel.

Vatican II spoke of Christ:  “He who is the image of the invisible God is Himself the perfect man.  To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward.  Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by the very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too.  For by His Incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every human.  He worked with human hands.  He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart.  Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.”  (8:5)

Apostolic Blessing

This Benediction, or blessing, is given by the pope at the close of liturgical function at which he presides and sometimes at the close of papal audiences.  To this blessing a plenary indulgence is attached.

This blessing may also be delegated by the pope to be given by others; priests attending the sick at the moment of death may give the apostolic blessing.

This also refers to the blessing or solemn benediction Urbi et orbi (the blessing to the “city” of Rome and to the “world”) given by the pope from the balcony of St. Peter’s after his election and on other solemn occasions. (8:4)

Fraction

The “breaking,” from the Latin fractio, is the act of breaking the bread of the species consecrated in the Mass.  This action of breaking is part of the communion rite.

The breaking of bread, the gesture of Christ at the Last Supper, gave the entire Eucharistic action its name in apostolic times.  In addition to its practical aspect, it signifies that in communion we who are many are made one body in the one bread that is Christ (1 Cor 10:17).  It is thus a sign of unity and community. (8:3)

Sign of the Cross

The sign of the cross is the most frequently used sacramental of the Church.  The sign is a repetition in motion of the symbol of our salvation, the cross on which Christ died.  The sign of the cross is made during the Mass, at blessings and generally at the opening and closing of prayer.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 315 – 386 had written, “Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified.  Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are in the way and when we are still.”

God speaking, through Ezekiel, to the remnant of Israel, tells the faithful: “And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark a Tau (the Hebrew symbol “x” or “+”) upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:4).

The Catholic Sign of the Cross is absolutely ancient, rooted not only in the Old Testament but the New Testament (the Book of Revelation, written around 100, speaks of those who have the sign of God on their foreheads).

When Catholics undergo the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Bishop (sometimes a priest) seals the sign on our foreheads with holy Chrism.

St. John of Damascus, d. 749, wrote: “This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers.”

The Christian sign of the cross was originally made in some parts of the Christian world with the right-hand thumb across the forehead only.  In other parts of the early Christian world it was done with the whole hand or with two fingers.

Around the year 200 in Carthage (modern Tunisia, Africa), Tertulian says: “We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross.”  Vestiges of this practice remain: Catholics sign a cross on their forehead before hearing the Gospels during Mass; foreheads are marked with an ash cross on Ash Wednesday.

By the fourth century, the sign of the cross involved other parts of the body beyond the forehead. (8:2)

Advent

The liturgical season of Advent begins the Church year.

The word Advent derives from the Latin word advenio, meaning coming or “to come to,” and refers to the coming of Christ.  Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.

This refers, first of all, to our celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas; but second, to the coming of Christ in our lives through grace and the Eucharist; and finally, to His Second Coming at the end of time.  Our preparations, therefore, should have all three comings in mind.  We need to prepare our souls to receive Christ worthily.

Advent is a period beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and embraces four Sundays.  That means that the First Sunday of Advent can fall as early as November 27 or as late as December 3.

In its symbolism, the Church stresses the penitential and preparatory nature of Advent.  Purple vestments are used, and the Gloria is omitted during Mass.  The only exception is on the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, when rose-colored vestments can be used.  This exception is designed to encourage us to continue our prayer and fasting, because we can see that Advent is more than halfway over.

Perhaps the best-known of all Advent symbols is the Advent wreath, a custom which originated in Germany.  Consisting of four candles (three purple and one pink) arranged in a circle with evergreen boughs (and often a fifth, white candle in the center), the Advent wreath corresponds to the four Sundays of Advent.

The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ.  The purple candles represent the penitential nature of the season, while the pink candle calls to mind the respite of Gaudete Sunday.  The white candle, when used, represents Christmas.  The candle flames signify Christ, the Light of the world.  (8:1)

Church Calendar continued

The Church calendar is also called the “Liturgical Calendar.”

A new Liturgical calendar was promulgated January 1, 1970, and in 1972 the U.S. Bishops ordered the new calendar into effect with the introduction of the Sacramentary in 1974.

Within the cycle of a year, Holy Mother Church unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, not only from His Incarnation and birth until His Ascension, but also as reflected in the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of a blessed, hoped-for return of the Lord.

In celebrating this annual cycle of Christ’s mysteries, Holy Church honors with special love the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son.

A liturgical day runs from midnight to midnight, but the observance of Sunday and of solemnities begins with the evening of the preceding day.  Celebration of the Eucharist, with the fulfillment of the Sunday or holy day obligation, may be on the evening before.

The liturgical season of Advent begins the Church year. (7:52)

Church Calendar

The Church calendar is also called the “Liturgical Calendar.”  It has been the traditional practice of civilized peoples to have the cycle of the times of the year associated with their religious practices.

This has been true of the Jewish calendar, the calendar of the Muslims, which began with the year 1 corresponding to the year A.D. 622, as well as, the Chinese and Japanese calendars.

The early Church Calendar followed the time cycles of twelve lunar months, amounting to 364 days in the year, but this was incorrect and could not be brought into proper reckoning with the Julian calendar.

There were inaccuracies in the Julian calendar in calculating the length of the year and this error, amounting to ten days by 1582, was corrected by the Gregorian calendar under the urging of Pope Gregory the XIII.  The accumulated error of ten days was eliminated, and the slight astronomical difference was corrected by the new reckoning of leap year.

The Church Calendar is an arrangement of a series of liturgical seasons throughout the year and a daily assignment of feasts of the saints.

There is unity and harmony in this procedural course of integrating each day of the year into a continuing, interrelated cycle of divine worship that takes into account both the daily celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.  (7:51)

Immutability

Immutability is the state of being unchangeable; an attribute of God alone, since He alone is unchangeable not only in His essence but in the perfection of all His attributes.

Since change implies an imperfection in the sense that something new could be added to the principal, there can be no change in God who is infinitely perfect.  Created things do not have existence of themselves but receive it from God the Creator.  They are dependent upon God’s creative will.

God alone in His existence is absolutely perfect and immutable. (7:50)