What is The Season of Ordinary Time?
There’s often excitement and interest linked with some feasts and seasons of the church year: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter. By comparison, “Ordinary Time” could sound pretty dull, uninteresting and commonplace. But is it?
Ordinary Time occurs between Christmastide and Lent, and later in the year links Pentecost and Advent. “Ordinary Time” is not simply “time in between” nor “ordinary” in contrast to “extraordinary”. Ordinary is the same as ordinal, meaning (time) counted in order and relationship. There are 33 or 34 Ordinary Time weeks, numbered sequentially, beginning after Epiphany, and ending with the feast of Christ the King.
Another name for Ordinary Time could be “Sundays of the Year.” The special focus of this six month period is the celebration of life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: grappling with its mystery and how to live it in our daily lives. As this is what every Sunday is really about, Ordinary Time gives us a long period of reflection and a chance to establish good habits.
Sunday, or “the Lord’s Day,” was the day early Christians held precious as the day they met the risen Christ. It also came to be associated with the coming of the Spirit (Pentecost), creation (in Genesis 1) and re-creation (Jn 20: 19-23), redemption, renewal of God’s covenant with humanity, joy and hope. It was a fitting day, then, for Christians to come together as a community called by God, and thank God for God’s goodness. They did this in the celebration of Eucharist (eucharistos means thanksgiving).
The three year cycle of readings allows a breadth and variety of readings looking at Christian salvation. Year A features the gospel of Matthew, Mark’s (and some of John’s) is read in year B, whilst Luke is the focus of Year C. Each gospel has a perspective on Jesus’ words and actions, his person and mystery.
Ordinary Time may be summed up by “living Sunday well.” It’s not a period equivalent to weekend partying, but is more in keeping with the mature faithfulness and perseverance of “Monday to Friday.” It does not have the urgency of a short, sharp period of preparation for a feast, but needs the loving steadfastness of the long haul.
It is a time for the slow growth of the seed, for cultivating and pruning the plant, for regular watering and fertilisation. It is a time for retaining the vision, maintaining oil in the lamps, regular prayer, and continuing our Christian mission in the family, workplace and world. Lived well, Ordinary Time can help us to be open to God’s goodness, blessings and riches within, in the family, church and society. In that way, we can experience the really extraordinary in the ordinary. The season is laced with a number of special feasts, including Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart, the Transfiguration, the Triumph of the Cross and Christ the King.
Green is the colour for this season. It is associated with spring, life, growth and hope. Varying shades of green could be chosen to link with actual seasons: summer, autumn, winter and spring.
You might like to use or adapt one of the following:
- Give 1% of each day (15 minutes) to an oasis time for prayer/reflection.
- At the end of each day and towards the end of the year, thank God for your blessings and others for their kindnesses and love.
- Design a modern “holy card” for one of the special feasts of the season.
- Write your own Litany of the Saints and pray it with the family in November.
- Be a Samaritan. E.g., raise some money towards a heater for winter or a voucher to cover heating expenses for someone less well off.
- Reflect on how we meet the Trinity in everyday life (e.g., Jesus in the scriptures and sacraments, the Spirit in “inspiration” …).
- Give something of yourself (time, talent, treasure/money) to someone who needs you.
- Reflect for a fortnight on successive phrases of the Lord’s Prayer and decide how you’re being asked to respond.