WHAT IS ORDINARY TIME? Submitted by Dan McMahon, Director of Music
These thirty-four weeks of non-festal time are named, “Sundays in Ordinary Time”. First, because they derive not from a feast day as such (they used to be called Sundays “after Epiphany” or “after Pentecost”) but from the mystery of Jesus Christ. These Sundays, then, rather than celebrating a particular saving event (such as Christmas, Annunciation, Pentecost) actually celebrate the whole mystery of Christ. For this reason every Sunday might also be called a “dominical” feast day, that is, a day celebrating the Lord (from the Latin, “Dominus” meaning Lord).
Second, they are called “Ordinary Time” because they are numbered or “counted time” (from the Latin word “ordinarius” which means “according to order” or “regular”). Although Latin is translated in the edition typica (the official, Latin version of our liturgical texts) by “ordinary” we must not think these Sundays are hum-drum or unimportant. In fact, they make up the longest liturgical season of the year – the church’s teaching time. This is the time when, Sunday after Sunday, we walk with Jesus through a gospel and learn what it means to be his followers.
The readings during this time instruct us on how to live out our Christian faith in our daily lives. Ordinary Time in the Church’s year occurs in two sections. The first part begins on the Monday following the Christmas season, which ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on the Sunday following January 6. It lasts through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. The second part of Ordinary Time resumes after the Easter Season, on the Monday after Pentecost, and continues until evening prayer on the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent.
The Sunday that follows the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The remaining Sundays are numbered consecutively up to the Sunday preceding the beginning of Lent.
During the Liturgical Year, the scripture readings for seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas have prominent themes. During Ordinary Time the readings are not chosen according to a theme. Rather, they present in a continuous fashion: the life and work of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Gospels of either Matthew, Mark, or Luke. John’s Gospel is read principally during the Easter seasons. This particular year we experienced the life of Jesus through the writings of Matthew.
The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green, a sign of life and hope. The Chi Rho is a Christian symbol that dates from the early Church. It is comprised of the first two letters of the Greek word for Messiah, Christos the letter Chi looks like the letter “X”, and the letter Rho looks like the letter “P.” This abbreviation became a symbol representing Jesus Christ.