The second part of Ordinary Time begins after Pentecost. The two Sundays following Pentecost celebrate two solemnities: Trinity Sunday and the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Then the semi-continuous reading of the Gospel for that year continues, with one major exception. In Year B, beginning on the Seventeenth Sunday (late July), the reading of Mark is interrupted for four weeks by John’s account of the feeding of the five thousand and the “Bread of Life” sermon (John 6). Finally, toward the end of Ordinary Time in each year, the narratives shift our focus to the time-beyond-time: to Jesus’ return in glory and to the future coming of the reign of God in its fullness. Ordinary Time—and the liturgical year—ends with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

The Sundays of Ordinary Time are the only Sundays on which the texts proper to the day may be displaced by certain other days in the calendar. These include solemnities and feasts of the Lord, solemnities of the Blessed Virgin Mary and saints, All Souls Day, solemnities proper to a particular place (such as the parish’s anniversary of dedication), and, with a bishop’s permission and “for the pastoral advantage of the people,” by “celebrations that fall during the week and have special appeal to the devotion of the faithful, provided these celebrations take precedence over the Sundays in the table of liturgical days” (Ceremonial of Bishops, 380). At first glance this replacement of the Sunday texts might seem curious because the Ceremonial of Bishops reminds us that “since Sunday is the first holy day of all, the nucleus and foundation of the liturgical year, the bishop should ensure that . . . on the Sundays in Ordinary Time the proper Sunday liturgy is celebrated, even when such Sundays are days to which special themes are assigned.” But this clash between special feasts and preservation of the texts proper to Sundays in Ordinary Time suggests three realities deeper than the structure of the liturgical calendar: The Church’s assembly for Eucharistic worship on the Lord’s Day is the primary value to be preserved and fostered; some aspects of the Christian mystery stand out even in the season that focuses on Sunday, order, and the ordinary; and some cultural communities find certain feasts more important for their understanding and practice of the Gospel than do other ethnic or cultural groups.

(This introduction has been excerpted from Singing the Year of Grace: A Pastoral Music Resource [NPM Publications, 2009].)