According to Ecclesiastes 3:1 and the song by The Byrds, “To everything there is a season.” In much of the Church, we observe the seasons of the two great cycles of the Church Year: Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter. But there are “in between” times which are sometimes counted as “ordinary.” In the Roman Catholic Church, the Sundays after the Feast of the Epiphany and after the Feast of the Pentecost are considered “ordinary time.” Episcopalians are more likely to call these times “the Season of Epiphany” and “the Season of Pentecost.”
The Book of Common Prayer calls these periods “Epiphany Season” and “The Season after Pentecost” (pp. 31-32). When Sundays are called “ordinary,” it does not mean that they are prosaic and mundane and all alike. They are ordinary in the sense that certain forms of numbers used count off things (e.g. first, second, third) are called “ordinal” numbers. The first ordinary season (which begins on the Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany, which is always January 6) emphasizes how Jesus was and is manifested to be the Christ in the world. The second ordinary season (which begins on the Sunday after the Feast of Pentecost, also called Trinity Sunday) emphasizes how the Holy Spirit grew the Church to become the body of Christ in the world after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. This second Ordinary Time (or the Season after Pentecost) always ends on the Sunday next before the First Sunday of Advent with an observance sometimes called Christ the King Sunday.
Churches which follow the Roman/Episcopal scheme of liturgical colors use green vestments and paraments in their churches during Ordinary Time although there is freedom to use other colours. Neither the Prayer Book nor the Canons prescribe liturgical colors. This allows some churches to use dark forest green in Epiphanytide and light grass green during Pentecost. Other churches use copper or bronze during these seasons. Without some variety, the green set always wear out first. The colors, like the other elements of worship which change with the seasons, are intended to help focus our thinking and our meditation upon those aspects of the Faith emphasized during the particular season. If done correctly, this changes ordinary time into extraordinary time.
Thanks to the Rev. Stephen Moore for this post on Ordinary Time. Rev. Moore is the retired Vicar at All Saints Episcopal Church in Bellevue.