Ordinary Time is the period in the Church calendar outside of other major seasons, and runs 33 or 34 weeks. In Latin, Ordinary Time is called Tempus Per Annum ("time throughout the year"). The season falls between Christmas and Lent, and also between Easter and Advent, exclusive.

Liturgical Color(s):

Green
 

Time of the Year:

The Monday following the Baptism of the Lord (end of Christmas), until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday; Monday following Pentecost until the evening before Advent
 

Type of Holiday:

Season

 

Duration:

Total of 33 or 34 weeks
 

Symbol:

The complete mystery of Christ

Alternate Names:

"Sundays of the Year"; tempus per annum

 

Scriptural References:

Various

Introduction

Because the term ordinary in English most often means something that's not special or distinctive, many people think that Ordinary Time refers to parts of the calendar of the Catholic Church that are unimportant. Even though the season of Ordinary Time makes up most of the liturgical year in the Catholic Church, the fact that Ordinary Time refers to those periods that fall outside of the major liturgical seasons reinforces this impression. Yet Ordinary Time is far from unimportant or uninteresting.

The Latin Tempus Per Annum ("time throughout the year") is rendered into English as "Ordinary Time." Many sources, both online and in print, suggest that Ordinary Time is derived from the word ordinal, meaning "numbered," since the Sundays of Ordinary Time, as in other seasons, are ordered numerically.

However, other sources suggest the etymology of "Ordinary Time" is related to our word "ordinary" (which itself has a connotation of time and order, derived from the Latin word ordo). Ordinary Time occurs outside of other time periods in the Church calendar, periods in which specific aspects of the mystery of Christ are celebrated. According to The General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, the days of Ordinary Time, especially the Sundays, "are devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects."

Ordinary Time, depending on the year, runs either 33 or 34 weeks. When it runs 33 weeks, one of the numbered weeks must be omitted. The number that gets omitted is the one that would normally be scheduled to be observed after the Sunday of Pentecost. For example, in 2010, there were nine weeks of winter Ordinary Time, so logically, the 10th Week of Ordinary Time should be scheduled after Pentecost. However, because there were only 33 weeks of Ordinary Time in 2010, the 10th week was skipped, and actual numbered week observed was the 11th week of Ordinary Time.

Basically, Ordinary Time encompasses that part of the Christian year that does not fall within the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter. The Catholic Church celebrates two periods of the year as Ordinary Time. The first period begins after the Feast Baptism of the Lord (the Sunday after The Epiphany) has ended. Some interpret this to mean that Ordinary Time begins on Sunday night, while others, including The General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, specifically mention the first period of Ordinary Time beginning on the Monday after the Baptism of the Lord. Either way, the point is the same. The next Sunday is still reckoned "The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time," because it is the Sunday of the second week in Ordinary Time. The reckoning can be confusing, and has many asking "what happened to the first Sunday in Ordinary Time?" This first period of Ordinary Time runs until the Tuesday evening before Ash Wednesday. The Second period of Ordinary Time runs from the Monday after Pentecost until Evening Prayer is said the night before Advent begins. This includes Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of Ordinary Time. In some denominations, the Sundays of the second period of Ordinary Time are numbered "Sundays After Pentecost."

Ordinary time does not need to be "ordinary," and is not somehow a "break" from the Liturgical Year. The opposite is actually true: Ordinary Time celebrates "the mystery of Christ in all its aspects." Many important liturgical celebrations fall during Ordinary Time, including, Trinity, Corpus Christi, All Saints, the Assumption of Mary, and Christ the King. In addition, the Church continues to celebrate Saints days and other events such as The Octave of Christian Unity. The major feasts, when occurring on a Sunday, trump the regular Ordinary Time Sunday lessons and liturgy. In the American Catholic Church, Corpus Christi is usually transferred to a Sunday, so often there are fewer than the 33 or 34 Sundays labeled "Sundays of Ordinary Time," although these Sundays still fall within Ordinary Time. We also may remember and celebrate the parts of Jesus' life that were ordinary, much like our own lives. The color of green is appropriate because it is the most ordinary color in our natural environment.

Why Is Ordinary Time Called Ordinary?

Ordinary Time is called "ordinary" not because it is common but simply because the weeks of Ordinary Time are numbered. The Latin word ordinalis, which refers to numbers in a series, stems from the Latin word ordo, from which we get the English word order. Thus, the numbered weeks of Ordinary Time in fact represent the ordered life of the Church—the period in which we live our lives neither in feasting (as in the Christmas and Easter seasons) or in more severe penance (as in Advent and Lent), but in watchfulness and expectation of the Second Coming of Christ.

It's appropriate, therefore, that the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (which is actually the first Sunday celebrated in Ordinary Time) always features either John the Baptist's acknowledgment of Christ as the Lamb of God or Christ's first miracle—the transformation of water into wine at the wedding at Cana.

Thus for Catholics, Ordinary Time is the part of the year in which Christ, the Lamb of God, walks among us and transforms our lives. There's nothing "ordinary" about that!

 

Why Is Green the Color of Ordinary Time?

Likewise, the normal liturgical color for Ordinary Time—for those days when there is no special feast—is green. Green vestments and altar cloths have traditionally been associated with the time after Pentecost, the period in which the Church founded by the risen Christ and enlivened by the Holy Spirit began to grow and to spread the Gospel to all nations.

 

When Is Ordinary Time?

Ordinary Time refers to all of those parts of the Catholic Church's liturgical year that aren't included in the major seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Ordinary Time thus encompasses two different periods in the Church's calendar, since the Christmas season immediately follows Advent, and the Easter season immediately follows Lent.

The Church year begins with Advent, followed immediately by the Christmas season. Ordinary Time begins on the Monday after the first Sunday after January 6, the traditional date of the Feast of the Epiphany and the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. This first period of Ordinary Time runs until Ash Wednesday, when the liturgical season of Lent begins. Both Lent and the Easter season fall outside of Ordinary Time, which resumes again on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday, the end of the Easter season. This second period of Ordinary Time runs until the First Sunday in Advent, when the liturgical year begins again.

 

Why Is There No First Sunday in Ordinary Time?

In most years, the Sunday after January 6 is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In countries such as the United States, however, where the celebration of Epiphany is transferred to Sunday, if that Sunday is January 7 or 8, Epiphany is celebrated instead. As feasts of our Lord, both the Baptism of the Lord and Epiphany displace a Sunday in Ordinary Time. Thus the first Sunday in the period of Ordinary Time is the Sunday that falls after the first week of Ordinary Time, which makes it the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Why Is There No Ordinary Time in the Traditional Calendar?

Ordinary Time is a feature of the current (post-Vatican II) liturgical calendar. In the traditional Catholic calendar used before 1970 and still used in the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, as well as in the calendars of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Sundays of Ordinary Time are referred to as the Sundays After Epiphany and the Sundays After Pentecost.

Traditions, Customs, Symbols and Typology

Traditions and Customs

Green Vestments and Linens

Symbols

The color Green

 

History

The use of the term "Ordinary Time" was used before the Second Vatican Council, but it was not until after the council that the term was officially used to designate the period between Epiphany and Lent, and the period between Pentecost and Advent. Rather than being called the "Season of Ordinary Time," the times were called "Season After Epiphany" and "Season After Pentecost" After the new Catholic Calendar took effect in 1969, these older designations were no longer used. However, some groups (including some Anglicans) still use the older designations. Interestingly, the Church in the Patristic period never seemed to effectively and concisely classify or label Ordinary Time, even though the time certainly existed.

Prayer

Collect for the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ (from the Mass of St. Pius V): "O God, Who by the guidance of a star didst this day reveal Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we, who know Thee now by faith, may be so led as to behold with our eyes the beauty of Thy majesty. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."


 

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