Reverend Frank Lioi special for the citizen
Christian denominations that follow a liturgical calendar have a beautiful rhythm of ordinary Sundays and special feasts, times of fasting and times of feasting. In the Catholic Church, the Advent/Christmas season officially ended on January 9.
Currently, we are in what is called “Ordinary Time”, which does not mean that these Sundays and weekdays are unimportant; it only means that we count the Sundays between the two great liturgical seasons. (More accurately, it might be called “ordinal time”, describing the numeric position of the particular Sunday.)
This year, there are seven Sundays between the end of the Advent/Christmas cycle and the start of the Lent/Easter cycle, and 27 Sundays between the end of the Easter period and the start of Advent.
We cannot talk about Ordinary Time without talking about Sunday. The celebration of the Lord’s Day every seven days is the basic structure on which the liturgical year is built. The great liturgical seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter are more expansive celebrations of particular aspects of the one Mystery of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection which we celebrate each Sunday.
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These two special seasons focus our attention on the critical dimensions of a single mystery, a mystery so overwhelming that we are forced to separate various elements for particular attention. These Christmas and Easter seasons in no way diminish the crucial importance of the Sunday celebration throughout the year.
Ordinary Time is not very ordinary at all. The weekly Sunday celebration is the mark of identification of the Catholic Christian community which gathers together, recalling that on this first day of the week, the Lord of life has been resurrected and that creation has finally been completed. It’s not ordinary at all. It is the fabric of the Christian life.
This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: “The Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day with the celebration of the Eucharist is central to the life of the Church. Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in the light of apostolic tradition and must be observed as the first holy day of obligation in the universal Church” (CCC 2177).
In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we see that this practice of the Christian assembly dates from the beginnings of the apostolic age (Acts 2, 42-46). The letter to the Hebrews reminds the faithful “not to neglect meeting together, as some are accustomed to, but to encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25).
“We celebrate Sunday because of the venerable resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we do so not only at Easter but also at every turn of the week”, wrote Pope Innocent I at the beginning of the 5th century, testifying to an already full life. -established practice that had evolved from the early years after the Lord’s resurrection. Saint Basil speaks of “Holy Sunday, honored by the resurrection of the Lord, the firstfruits of all other days”, and Saint Augustine calls Sunday, “a sacrament of Easter.”
In the light of this constant and universal tradition, it is clear that, if the day of the Lord is rooted in the very work of creation and even more in the mystery of the biblical “rest” of God, it is not no less to the resurrection of Christ which we must look to in order to fully understand the Day of the Lord.
The bishops of the United States are calling for a popular three-year renewal of devotion and belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, which we celebrate every Sunday. They want to see a movement of Catholics across the United States, healed, converted, formed and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist – and sent on a mission “for the life of the world”.
These three years will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States for nearly 50 years. Thousands of Catholics will gather in Indianapolis for a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to the “source and summit” of our Catholic faith.
Sunday is so important in the life of a Catholic that one of the six precepts of the church is to attend Mass on Sunday. This obligation is only a specification of the command to “keep the Sabbath holy.” We must remember that the commandment to keep the day of the Lord holy is just as important as the commandments not to kill or steal. Good Sunday!
Reverend Frank E. Lioi is pastor of St. Mary’s Church and SS. Mary & Martha Parish (St. Francis and St. Hyacinth Churches) in Auburn, Our Lady of the Snow Parish (St. Joseph Church, Weedsport and St. Patrick Church, Cato) in northern Cayuga County, and Dean of the Eastern region (Cayuga and Tompkins counties) of the Diocese of Rochester. He can be reached at [email protected].