Summer Ordinary Time begins today. But what does Ordinary Time mean?
All people live their lives in cycles: school years and graduations, planting time and reaping time, marriages, births, first steps and last steps, first words and final words. The Church, too, is rooted in cycles and seasons. There are the major feasts and seasons. Easter, as the focal point of our faith, and so, our lives, is both a feast and a season. The date of Easter Sunday dictates the beginning of Lent, the date of the Feast of the Ascension and the date of the Feast of Pentecost. Easter Sunday is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. (The vernal equinox marks the beginning of spring.)
The Easter season lasts for 50 days, seven weeks of seven days plus one day. Easter comes to a close on Pentecost and then summer Ordinary Time begins on the day after Pentecost.
“Ordinary” is the English form of the Latin word “ordinalis,” a word which refers to a number in a series. In this case, the weeks between seasons are ordinary, that is, numbered. We number the weeks from Pentecost to the First Sunday of Advent. Then we number the weeks from the first Sunday following January 6 to the First Sunday of Lent.
We often use the word “ordinary” as a synonym for “mundane” or “everyday.” And those meanings apply to the liturgical calendar, too, in that most days are not Easter, just as 364 days of every 365-day year are not my birthday. Most days we are not at weddings or funerals or anniversary parties. We mark special days in special ways, but we know that the love and faithfulness, which allow us to enter into those moments, are formed and shaped by the daily work of prayer and life in community. It is in the “ordinary time” of church life that the good seed is sown. Then, when the season of harvest comes round again, there is fruit, ripe and rich and plenty.