Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time Decor (Part I)

June 05, 2007

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Read Part II of this 2-part article.
It is often said that good liturgy is found in the connections. I have always thought this referred to ritual movements that flow seamlessly from one moment to the next. Abrupt transitions usually mean something has gone wrong. I realized recently that sometimes abruptness can actually mean that progressive solemnity has worked. Successful abruptness reveals itself in the jolt of Ordinary Time and its green colors after the church and ritual have been so full of extravagance throughout the Christmas Season. It is found in the disappointment after Pentecost when the gleaming whites of Easter transformed to a whirling experience of red – and now it’s Ordinary Time. A successful progression from noble simplicity to lavish ritual and décor means that good choices were made along the way and that we started in an appropriate place.

Marking Time

Ordinary time is not “ordinary” as in mundane or non-remarkable. Ordinary, in this case, derives its meaning from an understanding of ordinal numbers, an ordered way of counting. Each liturgical year, we mark another year of waiting for our Lord’s return. We begin our waiting during the Incarnational Seasons of Advent and Christmas, then we mark time by counting the weeks prior to the Paschal Season; the first week of Ordinary Time, the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. If Christ has still not returned after we have commemorated the weeks of Lent, the celebration of the Sacred Triduum, and the Season of Easter, we begin counting again. Like the crossing off of squares on a wall calendar, we celebrate the 9th Sunday of Ordinary time, the 20th Sunday of Ordinary time, all the way through to the 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time, superseded by the Solemnity of Christ the King, since solemnity feasts always take priority over the regular marking of a Sunday in Ordinary Time.

While some solemnities, such as Christ the King, are celebrated on Sundaywater through trees each year, most are not, so it’s best to check the liturgical calendar and be aware of the dates of feasts and solemnities when they occur near a Sunday. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) offers a calendar detailing this information that can be obtained through their website at www.usccb.org. This year for example, the feast of The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist occurs on Sunday, June 24. It is also important to note that the liturgical color for this feast is white, not green. Holy days of obligation also take priority over Sundays of Ordinary Time, as well as certain other special days, including:

  • The Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas), February 2 (white)
  • The Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, June 29 (red)
  • The Transfiguration, August 6 (white)
  • The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14 (white)
  • Solemnity of All Saints, November 1 (white)
  • All Souls Day November 2 (violet)
  • The Dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran, November 9 (white)

Habits of Faith and Décor

How can we visually support this longest liturgical season with the humility necessary to support its relationship with the other seasons, yet respect the essence of its call to daily discipleship? While these weeks appear not to be as flamboyant as other seasons, they substantially shape our prayer with the basics of ritual, inveterate music that has no particular seasonal home, and a repetition of color that cries out for more than one green chasuble. These are the days when we form the habits of our faith and the habits of how we pray as an assembly. What do we consider standard for the quality of our prayer, our music, liturgical ministries, and surrounding visual environment? This formative process is the beginning of progressive solemnity. Ordinary Time is the foundation for progressing in stages of formality that indicate the significance and import of our commemoration.

Denise L. Anderson is a liturgical consultant and writer who lives in St. Paul, MN and worships at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church.  She holds an M.A. in Liturgical Studies from The University of Notre Dame.


A Paschal Environment (Part 1 and Part 2)
Liturgical Décor for...Holy Trinity and the Body & Blood of Christ
Ordinary Time Décor (Part II)
Color Psychology and Liturgical Space

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