Did you ever notice how the word Ordinary is used in several different ways by the Roman Catholic Church? I started looking into all the various uses while researching an article about singing at Mass, because a collection of texts called “the Ordinary” is recited or sung at Mass. All the ways the Church uses “Ordinary” are listed below. It’s interesting to note that the term “ordinary” is never used with the common, shall I say “ordinary” sense of the word, as banal, or commonplace, as in, “She’s just an ordinary girl.”
- A Bishop or Archbishop is the Ordinary of a diocese, and the major superior is the Ordinary of a religious institute or society of apostolic life. Bishops and major superiors are called Ordinaries because they have what are called Ordinary Powers to make and enforce laws.
- The Mass of Paul VI that was introduced in 1969 was called the Ordinary Form (OF) of the Mass by Pope Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum, meaning that it is the “usual” form of the Mass that is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict used “Extraordinary Form” to refer to the Mass of Saint John XXIII according to the Missal of 1962, which is celebrated less often. (The Mass of 1962 is what is commonly called the traditional Latin Mass or (erroneously) the Tridentine Mass. Frankly, I’ve found that whether something thinks of the word extraordinary in Extraordinary Form as meaning “above ordinary” or thinks of it as merely meaning “the less-frequently used form” is usually determined by which form of the Mass that person prefers.
- In the post-1969 liturgical calendar, Ordinary Time, meaning ordered or numbered time, is a total of 33 or 34 weeks that are divided into two parts of the liturgical year. The first part of Ordinary time is from the Monday following the Baptism of Our Lord up to Ash Wednesday, and in the traditional liturgical calendar (which is followed when Extraordinary Form Masses are celebrated), that part of the year roughly equivalent to the Season after Epiphany. The second part of Ordinary time is from Pentecost Monday to the First Sunday of Advent, and, in the Extraordinary Form calendar, that part corresponds, again roughly, to “the Season after Pentecost.”
- Bishops, priests, and deacons are the Ordinary (usual) Ministers of the Eucharist, in contrast to Extraordinary Ministers, who, strictly speaking, should only be called to distribute Communion “when the size of the congregation or the incapacity of the bishop, priest, or deacon requires it.”
- Parts of a Mass that generally do not change are called the Ordinary. (The parts that do change are called the Proper or Propers.)
The following table lists the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass.
Composers through the ages have written musical settings for the Ordinary parts of the Mass, and so a collection of music for the five standard parts is also called a Mass. For example, the Mass for Three Voices by William Byrd written in the 1590s has the same five parts of the Ordinary as Missa Papae Francisci (Mass of Pope Francis) by Ennio Morricone, which premiered in 2015.
So, there you have today’s bit of Roman Catholic Church liturgical trivia.