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CNP Feedback - The Missing Eighth

The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians. From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.

Q. Dear CNP:

Matthew 6:24-34 is read on 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Is there any way of finding out in which years the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time does occur? I know Year A occurs every 3rd year but not every 3rd year Matthew 6:24-34 is read. Which year is it read? Could you suggest any website which answesr my question? Thanks for your kindness.

Seeking Eighth

A. Dear Seeking:

There are two parts to "Ordinary Time" (or "Sundays of the Year" as they were labeled in the older Lectionary):

  1. From after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord until the day before Ash Wednesday
  2. From the day after Pentecost Sunday through Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent
To order these Sundays correctly ("Ordinary" Time comes from the idea that "ordinal" numbers are used — 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. — to describe the Sundays), one needs to work from both ends. What would be the 1st Sunday in Ordinary Time is always replaced by the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord — that makes the weekdays that follow (Mon, Tues, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat) the 1st Week in Ordinary Time. The next Sunday, then, is the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Sundays are numbered consecutively, ending on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Because the date of Easter (and, of course, Ash Wednesday) changes each year, the number of Sundays in this Ordinary Time period varies from perhaps as few as five to as many as nine. If there are 8 or 9 Sundays in this first period of Ordinary Time before Lent, then (in each Year A) the Gospel you mentioned would be proclaimed. If there are fewer than 8, this Gospel would not be read during this first period of Ordinary Time, and it may or may not be read during the second period [see below].

The second period of Ordinary Time (from after Pentecost to before Advent) is reckoned from its end — thus the last Sunday before the new year begins (in Advent) is called the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, and it replaces what would be the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Hence, the weekdays after Christ the King (Mon, Tues, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat) are the 34th Week in Ordinary Time. From Christ the King (the "34th Sunday in Ordinary Time") one counts backwards to Pentecost. Normally Pentecost will coincide with the next Sunday in the earlier succession, picking up where the count left off before Lent. For example, if the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time was the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, then most of the time Pentecost will coincide with the 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time (although, of course, we would celebrate Pentecost as the close of the Easter Season, not the 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time). This is important to note, though, because the weekdays following Pentecost would be called the 9th Week in Ordinary Time. Occasionally, due to calendar aberrations and the way Easter changes dates and Christmas changes days of the week, there may be one Sunday that is squeezed out, usually around number 8, 9, or 10. That's why the count always proceeds backwards from Christ the King (the "34th Sunday in Ordinary Time").

This could explain why the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time is skipped in some years. However, there's a more common reason — although Ordinary Time does begin on the Monday after Pentecost, the next two Sundays (at least in the U.S. and some other countries) are replaced by Solemnities. If, in one year, Pentecost coincides with the "7th Sunday in Ordinary Time," then the next Sunday would be celebrated as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (not as the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time). The following Sunday is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (not the 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time) in countries where it is not celebrated as a holy day of obligation on the previous Thursday. In that same year, the Sunday after Corpus Christi would be the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and the readings for the 8th and 9th Sundays in Ordinary Time would never be read that year.

Remember that in reckoning the Sundays in Ordinary Time, it's important to note the weeks in between the Sundays — they need to be designated numerically, even if the Sundays are labeled: Baptism of the Lord, Pentecost, Trinity and Corpus Christi.

As to how to find out when the Gospel the you mentioned (Mt 6:24-34) will be read — that's a harder question. Every church calendar I know (some online versions are listed below) are designed first with the calendar itself in mind (i.e. the months and days, etc), then the proper readings are fit into the calendar. That's what most people are interested in ("What are the readings for the next few Sundays?"). I don't know of any way to find when Mt 6:24-34 is read, other than to look at all the Year A's (2005, 2008, 2011, 2014, etc), particularly in March, May and June, to see if the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time is celebrated (remember, it may be omitted or replaced by Trinity or Corpus Christi).

Some liturgical calendars:

This "ordering" of Ordinary Time is complicated. Hopefully this brief explanation will help to make it clearer.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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