Someone asked me, this past Sunday, what the Latin for “Ordinary Time” was, and I didn’t know right away, so I check my edition of the Missale Romanum, and there it is: Tempus per Annum. “Ordinary Time” is NOT a literal translation of the original! What would be?
“Time throughout the Year” is very literal; it also lacks feeling. When, for instance, this Sunday is called, in Latin, Domenica Secunda per Annum, perhaps an acceptable rendition would be “Second Sunday of the [Church] Year.” I like “Second Sunday of the [Liturgical] Year” even better. “Ordinary” no doubt was introduced as a way of contrasting it with the so-called “Privileged” seasons: Advent/Christmas, and Lent/Easter. But this is all by way of introduction.
How “ordinary” is the time of our salvation? We might consider how we mark these Sundays liturgically (only a few between now and Ash Wednesday, after all). We have shifted to basic green for a reason. Green is a color that can perhaps signify sinfulness (“I’m green with envy”) or illness (“I’m turning green; it must have been something I ate”). But more fundamentally, green is the color of spring, of re-birth, of new life, of fertility, of plants breaking out of the earth, of trees’ putting out leaves. It’s the sign that winter is finally over (though down here in Mobile, especially this past week, we can seriously doubt winter has ever begun!). March is the month of the vernal equinox, rushing full throttle toward the summer solstice. It’s time to plant, time to watch livestock giving birth, time to celebrate the language of the Song of Songs: “Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time for pruning the vines has come, and the song of the turtledove is heard in our land” (Song of Songs 2:10b-12). It is the language of hope.
And so, in keeping with this imagery, the church is draped in green: our banners are a rich Kelly green; the priest’s and deacon’s vestments are also green. And it is because of the promise of new life, a promise in which we hope, that we mark this part of the calendar as special, even when called “ordinary.” This is because St Paul assures us, “In hope we have been saved” (Romans 8:24).
Pagans understood this, as well: in the myth of Pandora, after all the ills of the box (originally, a jar) were unleashed, one thing remained in the box: Hope.
If I may go back to the “old translation” (aka, 1969) of the Missal, it for this that we prayed at the end of the Lord’s Prayer (at least, the priest did)—“…as we wait in joyful hope [expectantes] for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Can this season of “ordinary” (or “Church” or “liturgical”) time be a time of joyful hope for us? Do we long for “the consummation of peace forevermore” as we sang last Sunday in “The Church’s One Foundation”? We need His peace; we need strong, confident, and joyful hope. We’ll have 34 weeks to pray for it in the course of this year, but we can begin to live it now by confident rejoicing in our Savior, who will (in His good time) bring all things into perfection in Him.