‘Ordinary Time’ is anything but ordinary
With the Christmas Season behind us, Catholics enter into a period referred to as “Ordinary Time” in the Church’s liturgy. In our vernacular usage, the word "ordinary" describes what is commonplace, "everyday" or without uniqueness or special distinction.
The fact is that "Ordinary Time" makes up most of the Church's calendar year, roughly 34 weeks between the first and final Sundays of the liturgical calendar. The Lenten and Easter Seasons constitute, for lack of a better term, an “interruption” of “Ordinary Time” before Advent and Christmas come again. There are also individual feast days and solemnities that appear in the liturgical calendar “interrupting Ordinary Time” here and there.
The expression itself comes from two Latin root words referring to the “order” of numbering the weeks of the year in the “ordered life” of the Church, beginning after the solemn feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which takes the place of a “First Sunday in Ordinary Time,” and ending with the solemn feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the “Final Sunday in Ordinary Time.”
What takes place in the Church’s official prayer during “Ordinary Time” is anything but ordinary. It is the unfolding in Masses, Scripture readings and prayers of the whole life of the Lord Jesus Christ between the “seasonal celebrations” of his Incarnation and Birth and his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
The Church’s liturgical calendar is “ordered” in three cycles of Scripture readings on Sundays – Years A, B and C (we are currently in the year B cycle of Sundays of 2021) – and two cycles of Scripture readings on weekdays – Years I and II (we are currently in the year I cycle of weekdays of 2021). This arrangement was established in the revisions of the Church’s liturgical calendar after the Second Vatican Council. Catholic Churches and communities that celebrate the “Extraordinary Form” of the Mass – sometimes called the “Traditional Latin Mass” – maintain the liturgical calendar that was in use prior to 1970.
The vestments used by the priest and deacon at Mass during “Ordinary Time” are green in color. Green is used to represent hope in Christ’s Resurrection that characterizes each day in “Ordinary Time.” Different colors are used to correspond to other seasons and times and on other days and occasions celebrated during the liturgical year – white (sometimes gold) for Christmas and Easter seasons and on special feasts of the Lord, the Blessed Mother or saints who were not martyred; violet for Advent and Lent (rose may be worn on the 3rd Sundays of these seasons) and Masses for the Dead; red for Masses of Palm Sunday, the Lord’s Passion, Pentecost, the Apostles, Evangelists or other saints who were martyred. Black is sometimes worn in Masses for the Dead.
With all that in mind, Catholics should use “Ordinary Time” to deepen their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel, to nourish their reading and understanding of the Word of God, to enhance and grow in their spiritual lives and prayer and to strive for personal conversion. “Ordinary Time” should be the opportunity to make progress in putting the Catholic faith into action with ongoing works of charity toward others, respect for and protection of human life in all its stages, support for marriage and family life, respect for the environment as our “common home,” and personal witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Be who God intended you to be, and you will set the world on fire (St Catherine of Siena).”