What is Ordinary Time?

The Christmas Season officially concluded on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord last Sunday, and Monday we began “Ordinary Time” with the colors of the vestments and altar furnishing returning to green from the violet of Advent and the white of Christmas. What’s so “ordinary” about it? Actually, “Ordinary Time” is the English translation of the Latin Tempus Per Annum (“time throughout the year”) and gets its name from the word ordinal, meaning “numbered,” because we begin to count the weeks rather than the seasons. Ordinary Time, depending on the year, runs either 33 or 34 weeks, and makes up the time in the Church calendar that does not fall within the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter.

The Church celebrates two periods as Ordinary Time. We just entered the first period, which runs until the evening of Mardi Gras when Lent begins. The second period begins on the Monday after Pentecost and runs until Advent begins. This period includes Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The use of 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. The older names for those seasons were the “Season After Epiphany” and the “Season After Pentecost.”

Ordinary Time celebrates the mystery of the life of Christ in all its aspects, and contains many important liturgical celebrations, including, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, the Assumption of Mary, he Exaltation of the Holy Cross, All Saints, All Souls and Christ the King. In addition, the Church continues to celebrate other feast days of Mary, feasts of many saints, and the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.