Catholic worship is a cyclical thing. We go through a repeating cycle of feasts and seasons every year, and our scripture readings are on a 3-year cycle for Sundays, and a 2-year cycle for weekdays. The liturgical seasons that attract the most attention are the big, splashy, or solemn seasons, like Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter seasons. But what about the rest of the time?
This year, beginning after the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 9th, the Church moves into a season prosaically titled Ordinary Time. Doesn’t sound very interesting, does it? But the truth is that this season has its own characteristics and patterns, and its own traditions as well.
The dominant color for Ordinary Time is green. You’ll see green vestments, green paraments, green everywhere. I’m reminded of the old song from Sesame Street, in which Kermit the Frog sings, “It’s not that easy being green,” because green is so, well, ordinary. But as Kermit’s song reminds us, green is also the color of living, growing things. And this, in a roundabout way, is the theme of Ordinary Time.
The prayers and scriptures chosen for Ordinary Time emphasize living and growing in discipleship. Just as Advent stresses preparation and anticipation, and Lent focuses on repentence, Ordinary Time asks us to grow deeper into the mystery of our faith every day. The focus of our Sunday celebrations throughout this season will be on following Christ every day, taking the sacraments we celebrate on Sundays, and allowing them to enrich and guide our day-to-day lives, and completing the circle by bringing those daily experiences back to the altar the following Sunday.
So, it’s a little tricky to call this season merely ordinary. It’s a long celebration of the wonders that God works every day, and the challenges of following Christ with our lives. There’s nothing “ordinary” about that.