Mass has become Ordinary

Easter and Christmas are times of great exuberance and celebration in the Church! The two seasons are the superstars of the liturgical calendar:

“Next to the yearly celebration of the paschal mystery, the Church holds most sacred the memorial of Christ’s birth…”—Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, 32

The Catechism underscores the importance of Christmas:

“The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love: ‘In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.'”—Catechism of the Catholic Church, 458

St. Paul teaches that, without Easter, Christianity is in vain:

“And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.”—1 Corinthians 15:14

The entire liturgical calendar is organized around Easter and Christmas. Each has it’s own period of preparation—Lent and Advent respectively.

But for the majority of the year, the Church celebrates a period of time that lies outside these cycles, when biblical passages are chosen not to follow the themes of Christ’s birth, passion, death and resurrection, but to present his life and teachings. These readings help instruct the faithful on how best to apply their faith to everyday situations. This season is called Ordinary Time:

“Apart from those seasons having their own distinctive character, thirty-three or thirty-four weeks remain in the yearly cycle that do not celebrate a specific aspect of the mystery of Christ. Rather, especially on the Sundays, they are devoted to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects. This period is known as Ordinary Time.”—Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, 43

By Any Other Name

The term Ordinary does not mean plain, common or mundane: it comes from the Latin word ordinalis, which means having to do with order. Its root, the word ordo, gives us the English word order.

  • Ordinal numbers represent the rank of a number with respect to order (first, second, third, fourth, etc.).
  • Cardinal numbers refer to quantity (one, two, three, four, etc.)

Since the names of the days of this season are derived from their order (for example, The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time), the season itself received the name Ordinary Time.

Before Vatican II, the season was more commonly referred to as the Season After Epiphany and the Season After Pentecost. After the council, Ordinary Time became the common name for the period.

When is it?

Ordinary Time occurs in two sections in the liturgical cycle:

“Ordinary Time begins on Monday after the Sunday following 6 January and continues until Tuesday before Ash Wednesday inclusive. It begins again on Monday after Pentecost and ends before evening prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent.”—Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, 44

Occupying the longest portion of the church year, the Sundays of Ordinary Time are sequentially numbered until the 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time. On that day, the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King, which is the last Sunday before Advent.


Being Green

The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green. This color has traditionally been associated with new life and growth. Jesus grew in wisdom and age after his birth (Luke 2:52) and the Church grew in the Spirit after Pentecost. It is fitting then, that Ordinary Time—the time after Christmas and Pentecost—use this color to signify hope and growth.


As a graphic designer and dad, I’ve created a few art activities that will help teach the Mass to children. At the bottom of my weekly newsletter, I will post a link to an art activity/lesson for the next 10 weeks of summer.

The second MassCraft is a Roman Centurion Helmet Project where children color, cut and assemble a paper helmet while learning the origin of these words said at Mass:

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

There is an accompanying story/play: As he was visiting the city of Capernaum, Jesus receives word from a centurion that his servant is sick. While en route, our Lord receives another message from the faithful centurion that is recited at each and every Mass!


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Frank Koob
September 10, 2014 at 3:08 am

Incarnation is not a moment in the plan of salvation. It is the continuing lived reality of Christ Incarnate.His work of salvation is continuing in and through His Incarnate Self and drawing us all into Unity.

During Advent we liturgically put ourselves among those Holy People who looked to the future with expectation of the Coming of Christ.
We too need to prepare ourselves so we can experience the Incarnation in our own lives… And of course the Final Moment of our union with God and all of the holy women and men who will be with us.

Steve Koob
July 6, 2014 at 2:41 am

I am disappointed by the lack of Church excitement over the Incarnation (March 25th) and the confusion that often follows from the reference to Christmas as the Incarnation. That Jesus spent 9 months in Mary’s womb before His birth is important theologically and culturally.

What can be done to increase attention to the Incarnation and those beautiful 9 months of gestation in Mary?

Dan Gonzalez
July 6, 2014 at 11:09 am
– In reply to: Steve Koob

Hi Steve! Thanks so much for taking the time to read the newsletter and for writing!

A reader once asked Fr. Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University the following question:

Q: “The opening prayer for Monday in the Second week of Advent asks: “prepare us to celebrate the incarnation of your son.” The Incarnation is celebrated March 25, not Dec. 25. There are many other mistakes of this kind during Advent. Should they not be corrected by Rome? A person I know uses this as a pro-abortion argument saying, “Even the Church recognizes that Christ became a man only at Christmas; before that it was not a man, not a human being in Mary’s womb.” He is wrong, of course, but he has a point. — C.A., Carlisle, England.”

Click here for his full answer, but here’s an excerpt:

“…both Christmas and the Annunciation celebrate different aspects of the mystery of the Incarnation.”

I wholeheartedly agree with you that there is a lack of theological understanding of the Incarnation (and, might I add, the Ascension). Referring to Christmas as the moment of Incarnation is indeed wrong. It does, however, celebrate a very important aspect of the Incarnation, namely the birth of Christ.

You ask “What can be done?” Well, for my part, this will make a terrific blog post! Let me know if you would like to help write it!

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