Dear Friends in Christ,
The glories of Christmastide are now behind us, and the rigors of the 40 Days don’t arrive until Ash Wednesday which falls this year on 6 March. That gives us seven weeks before Lent to live in the Thirty-Four Weeks of the Year , so-called Ordinary Time, when the Church is clothed with green as a sign of the spiritual growth that continues in all who are made a new creation by Jesus Christ.
In these seven weeks, the sacred liturgy will rejoice in the holiness of the following saints and martyrs: Saint Agnes, Saint Vincent, Saint Francis de Sales, Saints Timothy and Titus, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint John Bosco, Saint Agatha, Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Saint Jerome Emiliani, Saint Josephine Bakhita, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saint Peter Damian, Saint Polycarp, and Saint Casimir. Drawn from every epoch of the Church’s 2000 year history, these men and women lived the consecration of their Holy Baptism with heroic virtue by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and they bear eloquent witness to the beauty of being a new creation.
During those same seven weeks, the Church will keep three feasts of universal importance to all Christians. On 25 January we will celebrate the Conversion of Saint Paul, on 2 February we will keep the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, on 22 February we will rejoice in the Chair of Saint Peter as the symbol of the authority to teach conferred by Christ the Lord on Simon Peter and his successors, the Bishops of Rome.
On every day of the year, the Church lifts up the entire human race to God the Father through God the Son in God the Holy Spirit for the salvation of souls and the sanctification of all creation, and this work takes place first of all in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. Every Christian can participate in this ceaseless sacrifice of praise by attending Mass, praying the Hours, reading Holy Scripture, and serving others for the sake of Christ, who is revealed especially in those who suffer and are abandoned. By following this path of discipleship – the Way of the Cross – we strive to live the grace of our Baptism, and in this task we are encouraged and sustained by the great cloud of witnesses, some of whom are mentioned above.
Think of these mysteries every time you read the phrase “Ordinary Time.” The drama of salvation history is never ordinary, and everyone who is called by name to follow the Lord Jesus is a player in that sacred drama. On the day of our Baptism, Jesus Christ did call us by name, and He claimed us by the Sign of His Cross. In this way, calling us from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, He made us a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2.9). There is nothing ordinary about that.