The Church year revolves around two cycles:
- the Christmas cycle (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany)
- the Easter cycle (Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost)
But what about the rest of the year?
Well, there are two periods of the liturgical year that are called “ordinary time” that stitch together the Christmas and Easter cycles. One is the Season after Epiphany, and the other is the Season after Pentecost.
In this piece, we will focus on the Season after Pentecost.
What is “Ordinary Time”?
The Season after Pentecost lasts from the Monday after Pentecost Sunday until the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent. The first Sunday of this season is Trinity Sunday, and the last Sunday is Christ the King Sunday.
The Season after Pentecost is also known as “Ordinary Time.” And, if you’re like me, you might hear “ordinary time” as “boring time.” But that’s not the case!
The word “ordinary” most likely means “numbered” here (think ordinal numbers), because the Sundays of Ordinary Time are numbered. Here’s how the 2019 ACNA BCP introduces the Season after Pentecost:
The Easter Season includes and ends with the Day of Pentecost. The First Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. All subsequent Sundays have numbered propers and may be designated as “after Pentecost” or “after Trinity.”
So, the Sunday after Pentecost is always Trinity Sunday. On the Sunday after Trinity Sunday, we jump to a certain “Proper,” depending on the date.
- “Proper 1” occurs on the Sunday that falls between May 8 and 14.
- “Proper 2” between May 15 and 21.
- “Proper 3” between May 22 and 28. And so on.
Note that, when you’re doing the Daily Office, you’re supposed to start using the Collects from these numbered Propers during the weeks of/after Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday. If Pentecost Sunday falls between May 8 and 14, then you should use the Collect for Proper 1 on the Monday after Pentecost.
Now, because the date of Easter moves each year (and therefore the date of Pentecost, Easter + 50 days), some of the first Propers almost always end up getting skipped. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why the ACNA changed its Daily Office Lectionary to the civil calendar, to avoid readings getting skipped almost every year.)
The 1979 BCP gives a good explanation of what’s involved:
The Proper to be used on each of the Sundays after Pentecost (except for Trinity Sunday) is determined by the calendar date of that Sunday. Thus, in any year, the Proper for the Sunday after Trinity Sunday (the Second Sunday after Pentecost) is the numbered Proper (number 3 through number 8), the calendar date of which falls on that Sunday, or is closest to it, whether before or after. Thereafter, the Propers are used consecutively. For example, if the Sunday after Trinity Sunday is May 26, the sequence begins with Proper 3 (Propers 1 and 2 being used on the weekdays of Pentecost and Trinity weeks). If the Sunday after Trinity Sunday is June 13, the sequence begins with Proper 6 (Propers 1 through 3 being omitted that year, and Propers 4 and 5 being used in Pentecost and Trinity weeks). (p. 158)
Note that the 1979 BCP gives the date of the Propers in the form of “[Sunday] Closest to May 11.” The 2019 ACNA BCP gives you the possible date range: “May 8-14.”
This year (2019), after Trinity Sunday, we jump to Proper 7, because the Sunday will fall between June 19 and 25.
What do we do during Ordinary Time?
The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green. During the Season after Pentecost, we focus on the life of the Church as it grows in the midst of the world.
Here’s how Robert Webber introduces Ordinary Time in The Services of the Christian Year (vol. 5 of The Complete Library of Christian Worship):
During this season, many worship traditions follow lectionaries that highlight the work of the Spirit in the mission of the church in the world. Other churches organize their worship life around a lectio continua, continuous readings from a given section of Scripture. Some worship traditions have also called this season “kingdomtide,” focusing on the kingdom of God that is present now and the one that will be realized in more profound ways in the future (457).
As Webber notes, one of the reasons why Ordinary Time is different from other liturgical seasons is that
the various Sundays are not connected by a particular theme. In Advent we await the coming of Christ; during Christmas, we celebrate his arrival; and at Epiphany, we proclaim that Christ is manifested to the world as Savior. During Lent, we prepare for the death; in Holy Week, we reenact his death;, then in Easter, we celebrate his resurrection and complete the Easter cycle with the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. But in the nonfestive season of the church year, there is no unified theme that ties the Sundays together (457).
The Season after Pentecost is for the Church to live out her vocation in the midst of the world, recalling that every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I like the way that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops puts it:
Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation, a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate ever more deeply into history until all things are finally caught up in Christ. The goal, toward which all of history is directed, is represented by the final Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
“Ordinary” Time might well refer to living out our “ordinary” lives as Christians. But, since we follow the risen Lord of the Universe, there’s nothing “ordinary” about it!
Collects and Collect Reflections for the Season After Pentecost
The following Collects are from the ACNA’s 2019 Book of Common Prayer. Clicking on the links in the titles will take you to a Collect Reflection post—a brief reflection written about the Collect for that week.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last