ORDINARY TIME

Why Is Ordinary Time Called Ordinary?

Ordinary Time is called "ordinary" not because it is common but simply because the weeks of Ordinary Time are numbered. The Latin word ordinalis, which refers to numbers in a series, stems from the Latin word ordo, from which we get the English word order. Thus, the numbered weeks of Ordinary Time, in fact, represent the ordered life of the Church—the period in which we live our lives neither in feasting (as in the Christmas and Easter seasons) or in more severe penance (as in Advent and Lent), but in watchfulness and expectation of the Second Coming of Christ.

It's appropriate, therefore, that the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (which is actually the first Sunday celebrated in Ordinary Time) always features either John the Baptist's acknowledgment of Christ as the Lamb of God or Christ's first miracle—the transformation of water into wine at the wedding at Cana.  Thus for Catholics, Ordinary Time is the part of the year in which Christ, the Lamb of God, walks among us and transforms our lives. There's nothing "ordinary" about that!

Why Is Green the Color of Ordinary Time?

Likewise, the normal liturgical color for Ordinary Time—for those days when there is no special feast—is green.

Green vestments and altar cloths have traditionally been associated with the time after Pentecost, the period in which the Church founded by the risen Christ and enlivened by the Holy Spirit began to grow and to spread the Gospel to all nations.

When Is Ordinary Time?

Ordinary Time refers to all of those parts of the Catholic Church's liturgical year that aren't included in the major seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Ordinary Time thus encompasses two different periods in the Church's calendar, since the Christmas season immediately follows Advent, and the Easter season immediately follows Lent.

The Church year begins with Advent, followed immediately by the Christmas season. Ordinary Time begins on the Monday after the first Sunday after January 6, the traditional date of the Feast of the Epiphany and the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. This first period of Ordinary Time runs until Ash Wednesday when the liturgical season of Lent begins. Both Lent and the Easter season fall outside of Ordinary Time, which resumes again on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday, the end of the Easter season. This second period of Ordinary Time runs until the First Sunday of Advent when the liturgical year begins again. 

How Many Sundays Are There in Ordinary Time?

In any given year, there are either 33 or 34 Sundays in Ordinary Time. Because Easter is a moveable feast, and thus the Lent and Easter seasons "float" from year to year, the number of Sundays in each period of Ordinary Time vary from the other period as well as from year to year.