Ordinary Time

Counted Time of the Church Year

by Dennis Bratcher

 

Most of the Seasons of the Christian Church Year are organized around the two major festivals that mark sacred time, Christmas and Easter. The Christmas Season encompasses the time of preparation during Advent and the celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas and Epiphany in early January 6th. The Easter Season encompasses the time of preparation during the 40 weekdays of Lent and Holy Week, and is linked with Pentecost Sunday 50 days later. While there are other individual holy days within the church year, these seasons mark the movement of sacred time within the church calendar.

The rest of the year following Epiphany and Pentecost is known as Ordinary Time. Rather than meaning “common” or “mundane,” this term comes from the word “ordinal,” which simply means counted time (First Sunday after Pentecost, etc.), which is probably a better way to think of this time of the year. Counted time after Pentecost always begins with Trinity Sunday (the first Sunday after Pentecost) and ends with Christ the King Sunday or the Reign of Christ the King (last Sunday before the beginning of Advent).

The 33 or 34 Sundays of Ordinary Time after Pentecost (23 to 28 Sundays after Pentecost) are used to focus on various aspects of the Faith, especially the mission of the church in the world. The Lectionary readings for these Sundays tend to be semi-continuous readings through certain sections of Scripture, especially through the Synoptic Gospel of the year. However, many ministers use Ordinary Time to focus on specific themes of interest or importance to a local congregation rather than building sermons around the Lectionary readings.

The sanctuary color for Ordinary Time is dark green, although other shades of green are commonly used. Green has traditionally been associated with new life and growth. Even in Hebrew in the Old Testament, the same word for the color “green” also means “young.” In Christian tradition, green came to symbolize the life of the church following Pentecost, as well as symbolizing the hope of new life in the resurrection.