The Season After Pentecost

06.02.15 | by Mtr. Catherine Thompson

    This is the season after Pentecost, the longest in the church year, lasting from the day of Pentecost until Advent. During the season after Pentecost, we use green hangings on the altar, which symbolize living things and God’s creation. The priest's vestments are green, also.

    This season is also known as "Ordinary Time." Rather than meaning "common" or "mundane," the term Ordinary Time comes from the word "ordinal," which simply means counted time (1st Sunday after Pentecost, 2nd Sunday, etc.). Counted time always begins with Trinity Sunday and ends with Christ the King, the last Sunday before Advent, which begins November 29 in 2015.

    During this year, the Gospel readings come from Mark, read more-or-less in the order that they occur in the Gospel. Each Sunday’s passage is related in theme to the accompanying Old Testament reading. The Old Testament readings are connected, one to another, as well.

    Trinity Sunday always follows The Sunday of Pentecost. The subsequent Sundays include Old Testament readings that describe our Salvation History. Last year, the readings followed the covenants God made with humankind though the Patriarchs: Abraham, Noah, Moses and Joshua. Next summer, the readings will comprise The Prophets.

    This summer, we will read about the Kingship of David. The cycle begins, from The Book of Samuel, on June 7, with the Lord acting through Samuel to select young David as king. Over the following ten Sundays, we hear of a heroic, flawed, and human David, victorious over Goliath, lamenting the death of Saul and Jonathan, ruling Israel, dancing before the Ark, seducing Bathsheba, murdering Uriah, confessing to Nathan, regretting his actions..

    With the death of David and the kingship of Solomon, the readings take on a more solemn tone of prayer and meditation. Beginning on August 16, the readings include Soloman’s Prayers and Wisdom, Song of Songs, Proverbs, and Job.

    These narratives deal with two themes. First, with women and power. After all, women as well as men played a role in the political life of Israel. On September 27, Esther, the Queen of Persia, intercedes for her own people. Bathsheeba (July 26 and August 2) and Ruth (November 8) have roles in determining the Davidic line. The Wisdom literature selected also includes feminine images in the maiden in the Song of Solomon (August 30), Wisdom (September 13), & the capable wife “more precious than jewels” (September 20).

    The second theme is faith and yearning, for we shall hear of the historic longing of humankind for a leader, and the fulfilling of that longing in Jesus Christ. The entire narrative of this season after Pentecost describes humankind’s hope for the Messianic king through the historic life of Israel.

    Israel desired a King, hoping for God’s reign in the Establishment of the Monarchy. The story of Jesus’ glorious, flawed ancestor David points the way to the flawless monarchy of Christ. The wisdom of Jesus is anticipated in the thoughtful reign of Solomon and the wisdom literature, and the genealogy of Jesus is marked in the lives of Ruth and Hannah. The reading cycle ends on November 15 with the birth of Samuel by Hannah. The following Sunday, Christ the King, leads us directly to the Advent of the birth of Jesus.

    It is easy to encounter each reading individually. Most are familiar, and all of them deserve our attention and study. Taken together, they constitute a long narrative of the ancient expectation of the Messiah. These readings draw their coherence from the Christology of Mark and Mark’s interest in the relationship of Christ to David’s line. Three times, Mark calls Christ “The Son of David.” We hear that call particularly on October 25, when the Gospel reading comes from Mark 10, when “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar … heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”

    This is the message we shall hear, during all the Sundays of this counted time, as we move through the generations of David to the Son of David: the message of God’s good news, promised and fulfilled.