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What Ordinary Time Means in the Catholic Church
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.
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.
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.
How Many Sundays Are There in Ordinary Time?
In any given year, there are either 33 or 34 Sundays in Ordinary Time. Because Easter is a moveable feast, and thus the Lent and Easter seasons “float” from year to year, the number of Sundays in each period of Ordinary Time vary from the other period as well as from year to year.
ThoughtCo. “What Ordinary Time Means in the Catholic Church.” Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/ordinary-time-in-the-catholic-church-542442 (accessed June 22, 2022).