What is ‘Ordinary Time’?


Dear Friends:

In our bulletin this past Sunday, July 13, I referred to the day “The 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time,” and a couple of members have asked me what I mean by ‘Ordinary Time’?

In a word, ‘Ordinary Time’ is to be distinguished from ‘Extraordinary Time.’ Let me explain.

As you probably know, for 2000 years now, the Christian Church has tried to impose the shape of Christ’s life on the solar year. The Church does this with seven Seasons of the Church Year—Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time. These seasons are symbolized by the four liturgical colors of purple, white, red, and green.

The Church Year begins not on January 1—an entirely arbitrary construct—but four weeks before Christmas with the First Sunday of Advent, when we prepare for the arrival of the Christ Child into our lives. Thus Penitential Purple is the color of Advent. The White Seasons of Christmas and Epiphany follow Advent.

Then in late winter comes Lent, six weeks of Penitential Purple again while we prepare for Christ’s Resurrection, which concludes the Lenten Season with the White Festival of Easter, and then six more white weeks of Eastertide, which ends on Pentecost, the Festival of the Holy Spirit, and the only day of the Church Year that is marked by red, the color of zeal.

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but for all practical purposes, Extraordinary Time is that long stretch of the year from the First Sunday of Advent in November through Pentecost in late May or early June, when the Church honors the life of Our Lord by walking in his footsteps.

After Pentecost comes—are you ready for it?—Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is green time, the color of life and flourishing. Ordinary Time is everything which is not Special Time; it is the time after the Seasons of Penitence and the Seasons of Celebration.

Life can’t be all purple—fraught with deep reflection; nor all white—joyful with glad celebration; but sometimes just Ordinary—filled with the pedestrian goodness of daily life with God. Green Ordinary time lasts from Pentecost in early June through Advent in late November.

William A. Evertsberg
Senior Minister