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“There is nothing ordinary about Ordinary Time”
After the feast of Pentecost, the Church’s liturgical calendar moves into Ordinary Time. The fact that Ordinary Time has begun is obscured for most people by the fact that two solemnities – Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ – fall on the first two Sundays.
Calling the period of the church year outside the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter “Ordinary Time” is rather unfortunate. The word “ordinary” in common usage means everyday, unexceptional, and uninteresting. The word “ordinary” as used in “Ordinary Time” relates to ordinal numbers, as in the process of counting.
The reformed liturgical calendar names the Sundays after the Christmas and Easter Seasons as Sundays of Ordinary Time, numbering 33 or 34 weeks. They are “ordinary” only in the fact that they are counted in order. Previously these Sundays were designated Sundays “after Epiphany” or “after Pentecost”. This earlier method of naming Sundays outside the key seasons was altered because it focused too much on Pentecost and Epiphany and made this period of the year seem like “time in between” the important liturgical seasons.
It is best to think of Ordinary Time as one of the liturgical seasons – the longest season of the church year. It has its own liturgical colour – green – which points to our Christian hope and life, entering into the mystery of Christ in all its fullness.
As Christians, Sunday is our original feast day – the day to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and our participation in the paschal mystery. As appreciation of the importance of Sunday weakened, the practice of replacing Sundays with feasts of local saints and other celebrations began to take over. By the time of Pius X in the early 1900’s the Sunday Mass texts were rarely used. After Vatican II the new Sacramentary restored the central place of Sunday in the celebration of each week and the primacy of Ordinary Time as a whole.
Ordinary Time is simply the way the Church marks time, Sunday after Sunday, gathered to celebrate the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. Ordinary Time enables the Christian community to witness to the presence of the risen Jesus in the community of faith.
Parish liturgy groups are sometimes tempted to allow the Sundays of Ordinary Time to slip through the cracks. There is a tendency to spend much time and energy on preparing for the key liturgical seasons and then to take a rest from planning during Ordinary Time. However, there is no such thing as “ordinary time” in Christian worship. This quieter time of the year gives the liturgy committee an opportunity to evaluate the parish’s normal patterns of Sunday worship and to find ways of enhancing the Sunday celebrations. A committee might review, for example, the parish music repertoire, or liturgical space, or the recruitment and training of liturgical ministers.
Ordinary Time enables us to devote ourselves to exploring the mystery of Christ in all its aspects and to celebrate the presence of God in the ordinary patterns of human life.