Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Ordinal or Ordinary?

Words Mean Things...

Is there anything "wrong" with using the term "ordinary" to refer to the counting days in the liturgical year?  Well, yes and no. We'll start with the "no" reason.

No: Both ordinal and ordinary come from the same root word in Latin, which is "ordo" and it is the same word we use for "order." So, fundamentally speaking, there is nothing "wrong" with using the term "ordinary" for the two times of year where we "count" the weeks.

Yes: While both come from the same root, in modern usage "ordinary" takes on quite a different meaning, which can mean "common" or "plain" or "undistinguished" (see http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ordinary?s=t ). As we have already demonstrated in this second season of counting, there have already been three quite extra-ordinary feast days! We've already celebrated the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity (May 27); the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 3) and the Feast of the Sacred Heart! (June 8). I hope you can see my point here - these are anything but "ordinary" in the common use of the word. Just because we CAN use "ordinary" doesn't mean we SHOULD use that term.

Now let's consider the use of the term "ordinal." It clearly refers to an "order" or "rank" or "position in a series" (see below). It was even used as the name of the Catholic prayer book for Mass (see below). The term "ordinal" clearly fits better and when we consider the ecclesial origin of the term, it causes us to question the wisdom in changing the terminology, at least in English, to "ordinary." I would urge you to urge our bishops and others in authority to go back to the use of "ordinal," it just makes more sense and does not sound "plain" or even "boring."

ordinal 1
[awr-dn-uh l]


    of or relating to an order, as of animals or plants.
    of or relating to order, rank, or position in a series.



    an ordinal number or numeral.

Origin of ordinal1
1590–1600; < Late Latin ōrdinālis in order equivalent to Latin ōrdin- (stem of ōrdō) order + -ālis -al1
Related forms:  or·di·nal·ly, adverb

ordinal 2
[awr-dn-uh l]

    a directory of ecclesiastical services.
    a book containing the forms for the ordination of priests, consecration of bishops, etc.

Origin of ordinal 2
1350–1400; Middle English < Medieval Latin ōrdināle, noun use of neuter of ōrdinālis in order. See ordinal1
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for ordinal
Historical Examples

    Phauloptera: an ordinal term for the scale insects (Laporte 1835).
    Explanation of Terms Used in Entomology

    John. B. Smith
    Ordinal—That form of the numeral that shows the order of anything in a series.

    Frederick W. Hamilton
    If the ordinal expression of number be used on the title-page, the figures may be given, and the ordinal termination omitted.
    Smithsonian Report on the Construction of Catalogues of Libraries and their Publication by Means of Separate, Stereotyped Titles

    Charles C. Jewett
    An 'ordinal' is a book showing the order of church services and ceremonies.
    Fourteenth Century Verse &amp; Prose

    Ordinal numerals are adjectives which answer the question "Which in order?"
    A Complete Grammar of Esperanto

    Ivy Kellerman Reed

British Dictionary definitions for ordinal

    denoting a certain position in a sequence of numbers
    of, relating to, or characteristic of an order in biological classification


    short for ordinal number
    a book containing the forms of services for the ordination of ministers
    RC Church:  a service book

Word Origin
C14: (in the sense: orderly): from Late Latin ordinalis denoting order or place in a series, from Latin ordō order
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ordinal

early 14c., "book setting forth the order of services in the Church," from Late Latin adjective ordinalis (see ordinal (adj.)).

late 14c., "regular, ordinary," from Old French ordinel and directly from Late Latin ordinalis ""showing order, denoting an order of succession," from Latin ordo (genitive ordinis) "row, series" (see order (n.)). Meaning "marking position in an order or series" is from 1590s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper


While We're On The Subject...

The first time of year we "count" the weeks are the Weeks After Epiphany - and traditionally speaking, we identified those weeks as such. The Weeks After Epiphany are the weeks between Epiphany and Lent. The second "counting" season are the Weeks After Pentecost and again, traditionally speaking, that is what we used to refer to these two seasons as (and still do where the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated). In the modern lectionary these two seasons become just one, separated by Lent and Eastertide. By combining the two seasons it does seem more "ordinary" by the common use of the term. If we continue the tradition of having two separate seasons, each season automatically takes on more meaning - and we have a constant reminder during that season of counting of a very extra-ordinary date. Each week during the first ordinal season we're reflecting on the weeks after Epiphany and then in the second ordinal season we're reminded each week of the Church's birthday, Pentecost. So again, we lose so much in the modern terms of "ordinary" and the combining of the two ordinal seasons.

In a climate where we should want to make the Mass and the liturgical year more meaningful, even exciting, why would we want to refer to it as "ordinary?"

Upcoming Extra-Ordinary Feast Days in Ordinal Time...

Sunday, June 24, 2018 – Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Friday, June 29, 2018 – Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
Wednesday, August 15, 2018 – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Day of Obligation
Thursday, November 1, 2018 – All Saints Day, Holy Day of Obligation 
Friday, November 2, 2018 – The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day)
Sunday, November 25, 2018Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Christ the King)

For a listing of this and other articles on this blog relating to this subject, please click this link:  http://quilocutus.blogspot.com/search/label/ordinal

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