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On Living the Liturgy

Interview With Rector of Pontifical Liturgical Institute

ROME, FEB. 1, 2007 (Zenit) - The liturgical year is always the year of the Lord, says Benedictine Father Juan Javier Flores Arcas, rector of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

We asked Father Flores, professor at Rome's Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm, some questions about the liturgical year.

Q: Liturgically speaking, we are beginning ordinary time. Is it a "minor" time?

Father Flores: It is not a weak time with respect to the other intense times, as it includes Sundays which are the weekly celebration of Easter, which is at the very origin of the liturgical year. Of itself this time has nothing that makes it inferior to the others.

Ordinary time does not have as object the celebration of a particular mystery of the life of Christ, but the totality of the mystery seen more as a whole than in a particular mystery.

They are 33 or 34 weeks which are placed after the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and which follow the solemnity of Pentecost.

They are not complete weeks, as some are missing Sundays or some days, as in the days that follow Ash Wednesday.

Q: Are there specific formularies for ferial -- not festive -- days of ordinary time?

Father Flores: In the present liturgy of this time, no specific formularies have been provided for ferial days, but instead -- here is the great novelty -- a double lectionary has been prepared which enriches notably the daily celebration.

The great guidelines of the spirituality of ordinary time are marked by the double ferial lectionary: the lectionary of the Eucharist and the biennial biblical lectionary of the office of readings to which is added another patristic biblical lectionary.

The ferial days of ordinary time have their own distribution of readings in a two-year cycle, but the Gospel is always the same, so that it is the first reading which offers a different cycle for each year.

The daily Gospels are divided in this way: the Gospel of Mark, from the first to the ninth week; the Gospel of Matthew, from the 10th to the 21st week; the Gospel of Luke from the 22nd to the 34th week.

The Gospel of John, instead, is read during the whole of paschal time, beginning with the fifth week of Lent. It constitutes an ensemble of five Sundays, from the 17th to the 21st in cycle B of ordinary time. It is a privileged occasion for a catechesis on the Eucharist, set in adherence to Jesus in faith.

Q: Ordinary time is part of the liturgical year. How can we describe, exactly, the liturgical year?

Father Flores: The liturgical year can be described as the ensemble of celebrations with which the Church lives annually the mystery of Christ.

This is how the Second Vatican Council expressed it in its constitution on the liturgy, No. 102: "Holy Mother Church is conscious that she must celebrate the saving work of her divine Spouse by devoutly recalling it on certain days throughout the course of the year," so that in the course of a year we can recall the highest moments in the history of salvation, introducing us in them.

The liturgical year is, therefore, the year of the Lord, of the glorious Kyrios, of the risen Christ present in the midst of his Church with the long history that precedes and accompanies him. We relive the covenant, the choice of the holy people and the fullness of messianic times.

In the course of the annual cycle the whole mystery of Jesus Christ unfolds, from the incarnation to the expectation of his second coming at the end of time, culminating with the most important celebration of the year, namely, the memorial of his paschal mystery.

In its various moments, the liturgical year celebrates nothing other than the fullness of this mystery; it has its center in the annual Easter, everything springs from it and everything tends to it.

Q: Is Easter the highest point?

Father Flores: The documents that have supported the liturgical reform insist in a very special way on this paschal centrality, hence the need to highlight fully Christ's paschal mystery in the reform of the liturgical year, according to the norms given by the Council, both in regard to the ordering of the proper of the time and of the saints, as well as the revision of the Roman calendar.

The continuous paschal celebration thus became the starting point of the whole reform of the liturgical year.

The conciliar constitution on the liturgy and the subsequent documents are clear and categorical: There is only one cycle: the paschal, though along with it must be placed other collateral cycles.

Christ's Pasch is at the center of liturgical action -- hence the reason why all Christian spirituality must be a paschal spirituality, that is, a spirituality polarized by the divine event of salvation, by the paschal mystery lived by Christ and celebrated memorially by the Church.

Q: Are there specific spiritualities for each liturgical time?

Father Flores: Yes, of course. Focusing on the great times of the liturgical year we might divide them according to the tone of the liturgical time itself, always starting from the celebrative unicity of Easter, seeking totality in the simplicity of the mystery, that is, the "whole in the fragment" -- Advent: an eschatological spirituality; Christmas: a spousal spirituality; Epiphany: a real spirituality; Lent: a spirituality of conversion and penance; Paschal triduum: a time to imitate sacramentally Christ's paschal mystery; Easter: a Pentecostal spirituality; and ordinary time: the peaceful rhythm of the liturgical year.

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