The Season of Ordinary Time

After the feast of Pentecost which fell on June 11, the Church’s liturgical calendar changed from the Season of Easter to Ordinary Time. Many people might have missed this fact because the liturgical colour for Ordinary Time – green – is not used on the first two Sundays of this phase of the season. The Easter colour of white is continued because two solemnities – Holy Trinity and The Body and Blood of Christ – are celebrated on the Sundays following Pentecost.
The name “Ordinary Time” for that part of the church year outside the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter is perhaps rather an unfortunate term. The word “ordinary” commonly means something that is unexceptional or uninteresting. However, the word “ordinary” as used in “Ordinary Time” means that the Sundays after the seasons of Christmas and Easter are counted in order, using ordinal numbers.
It is best to think of Ordinary Time as one of the liturgical seasons – the longest season of the church year. Its liturgical colour of green 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. Feasts of local saints and other celebrations began to take over the Sunday celebration of the paschal mystery during the Middle Ages. 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, which have been very busy preparing for Lent and Easter, might be tempted to take a breather from planning once Ordinary Time begins. However, there is no such thing as “ordinary time” in Christian worship. While music and decorations used during the high season of the Church year will be scaled down, the basic principles of good liturgy remain – scripture readings that are well prepared and proclaimed, large liturgical symbols that speak clearly of the meaning they carry, music that supports the rites, etc.
It would be a pity, for example, if a parish which has been singing the psalm during Lent and Easter were to revert to saying the psalm again. Just as the Lectionary gives the option of common psalms for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, there are possibilities for common sung psalms to be used during Ordinary Time so that the music leaders and the people don’t have to tackle a new setting every week.
This quieter time of the year also 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.


Elizabeth Harrington