Liturgical Calendar - What is so ordinary about Ordinary Time?

We are now in the thick of Ordinary Time. Growing up, I thought Ordinary Time was essentially the 'boring' time in the liturgical calendar. During this time we have no Easter-like or Christmas-like celebrations to get excited about. It always seemed like a sort of break in the liturgical season. Now that I'm older, I realize that this was a big misconception on my part.

Ordinary Time is actually a beautiful and important season in the Church! We spend more weeks in Ordinary Time than any other season in the Church by far (33-34 weeks depending on the year). This season is also filled with important feast days, such as Corpus Christi (June 7),  the Assumption of Mary (Aug. 15),  All Saints Day (Nov. 1), All Souls (Nov. 2), and Christ the King (Nov. 25).  Not to mention the feast days of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Transfiguration, and Mary's birthday (Sept. 8th).

“Ordinary Time” gets its title from the word 'ordinal'. Ordinal means 'numbered', and 'ordinary time' simply means that it is 'numbered time'. Thus, the title “Ordinary Time” wasn't meant to refer to this period in the liturgical calendar as being standard, usual, customary, or (as I used to think) boring.

Ordinary Time is the only liturgical period celebrated in two segments. The first segment runs from the Monday after the Baptism of Our Lord to Ash Wednesday, then it picks up again after Pentecost and runs up to Advent. Ordinary Time is actually a wonderful time in the Church calendar full of many feast days to be celebrated with joy.

The focus of Ordinary time, and the theme of many of the Mass readings, is the life and walk of Jesus. Advent and Christmas focus on the lead up to and birth of Our Lord, while Lent and Easter focus on the lead up to and Passion of Our Lord.  Ordinary Time, on the other hand, focuses primarily on the life and ministry of Jesus, those days and years when the Son of God lived and walked among us.

A simple way to get the most out of Ordinary Time, and to treat it in a special way as you do the other liturgical seasons, is to incorporate the daily readings into your life (even if you don't go to daily Mass).   There are several different ways you can do this:

  1. Follow the Mass readings with a Daily Roman Missal or a Sunday Missal.
  2. Read the daily Mass readings together with short devotionals with a Magnificat subscription.
  3. Look up the references for the daily Mass readings in your Catholic Bible.
  4. Pray the Daily Office, also called the Liturgy of the Hours.

I now like to think about Ordinary Time as this quote suggests: “For Catholics, Ordinary Time is the part of the year in which Christ, the Lamb of God, walks among us and transforms our lives. That's why there's nothing 'ordinary' about Ordinary Time.” 

What are your favorite feast days in Ordinary Time? What do you get out of Ordinary Time that you don’t get out of the other liturgical seasons of the Church?

Copyright 2012 Kathleen Wellman