On the feast of the Epiphany, one of the children in our Learning programs asked when we could go back to being “original.” Kelli Kester, who coordinates our children and youth programs asked if he meant “ordinary?” He said “yes, ordinary! Green!” I marvel at this great interaction. Is our “green” season “original” or “ordinary?” As Catholic allegorist Guillaume Durand a 13th C. bishop of Mendes in France suggested the green seasons are neither original nor ordinary, they are “in-between” seasons, nothing less and nothing more.
Up until the liturgical renewal promulgated by the Second Vatican Council there was no “ordinary” time on our liturgical calendar. The two “in-between” seasons we now call “ordinary” were known by different names. First, the Sundays between the end of Christmas and the beginning of Lent were generally known as the first, second, third, etc. “Sunday after Epiphany”. The Sundays between the end of the Easter Season and the beginning of Advent were generally known as the first, second, third, etc. “Sunday after Pentecost.”
The reform of the liturgy initiated by the Second Vatican Council sought to give the liturgical calendar a clearer structure in order to highlight the importance of the Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter seasons. To that end the time between Christmas and Lent roughly speaking January-February and the time between Easter and Advent, roughly speaking June-November were given a name independent of the preceding season. These two sections of the liturgical year were to be known in Latin as Tempus per Annum or “Time throughout the Year” instead of Sunday after Epiphany and Sundays after Pentecost.
Literally translated the Sundays in Ordinary Time should be known as e.g. “The Fifth Sunday throughout the Year.” Sensing this was a somewhat awkward translation it was decided to translate the Latin more freely as “The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.” This may or may not have been a happy decision as the word “ordinary” implies something that is common, not special, or even trite. Moreover, this word says absolutely nothing about the season it names. By comparison, the name of the other seasons either directly or indirectly speaks to the meaning of the season: Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter. A better name for this season might have Ordered Time or Tempus Ordinarium in Latin as during Ordinary Time we move from one counted Sunday to another in an ordered numerical fashion.
From a theological point of view one could describe Ordinary Time simply as a time ordered by Christian prayer for Christian living. Thus, despite its name there is nothing ordinary about Ordinary Time, either in its content or in its calculation. And as the young lad suggested, “ordinary” or “green” time is indeed rather “original.”