All About Ordinary Time
Ordinary Time Definition and Summary
Ordinary Time is the period in the Church calendar outside of other major seasons. It runs 33 or 34 weeks of the year. In Latin, Ordinary Time is called Tempus Per Annum ("time throughout the year"). The season falls between Christmas and Lent and again between Easter and Advent. It focuses on celebrating the entirety of Christ's person.
Prayers: Ordinary Time Prayers
Liturgical Color(s): Green
Type of Holiday: Season
Duration: Total of 33 or 34 weeks
Celebrates/Symbolizes: The complete mystery of Christ
Alternate Names: "Sundays of the Year"; tempus per annum
Scriptural References: Various
The Latin Tempus Per Annum ("time throughout the year") is translated 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 Church 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).
Either way, Ordinary Time occurs outside of other seasons 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 Catholic guide to the Church year), the days of Ordinary Time, especially Sundays, "are devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects."
Ordinary Time, depending on the year, runs 33 or 34 weeks. When it lasts 33 weeks, one of the numbered weeks must be omitted. The number that gets omitted is the one normally 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.
Put simply, Ordinary Time encompasses the 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 of the Baptism of the Lord (the Sunday after 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 "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 is not supposed to be viewed as "ordinary" in the sense of lacking meaning or being 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 Sunday, 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. When major feasts occur on a Sunday they replace 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.
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.
Worship and Prayer Resources
Traditions, Customs, and Symbols
Traditions and Customs Green vestments and linens
Symbols The color green
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is there no "First Sunday of Ordinary Time"? As mentioned above, many Catholics become confused upon looking at their liturgical calendars to see a "Second Sunday in Ordinary Time" but no "First Sunday of Ordinary Time." The answer is surprisingly simple. Remember that the first period of Ordinary Time begins after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (the Sunday after Epiphany) has ended. This means that Ordinary Time begins on a Monday (or perhaps late Sunday night after evening prayer). The next Sunday is still reckoned "The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time," although it is more properly the Sunday of the second week in Ordinary Time. Thus, there is no real "First Sunday in Ordinary Time," but there is a first week of Ordinary Time.
This page written by David Bennett.