Making the Most of Ordinary Time

Daniel Witham

Making the Most of Ordinary Time

Having just celebrated the great feast of Pentecost, the Church is now entering into “Ordinary Time.” This season of the liturgical year is marked by green vestments and occurs in two parts: between the end of the Christmas season and the start of the Lenten cycle, and resuming after Pentecost and lasting until the whole liturgical year begins anew in Advent. The Church describes this season, “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.”1 

We have just celebrated the long period of Lent, with its heightened spiritual rigor, which led to the 50 day celebration of the Resurrection. Beginning with Advent, we have followed Our Lord as he was an unborn child in his Mother’s womb, an infant in the manger, was worshiped by the Magi, fasted in the desert, teaching and preaching, entering into his paschal mystery of death and resurrection, and now ascended to heaven. Our yearly keeping of the life of Christ has come to a close, and now, the promised Holy Spirit has been poured out abundantly on the Church. 

But now, there is almost a sense that the exciting part of the year is over. Ordinary time can be somewhat monotonous, and lasts a long time. This can, for some of us, lead to a spiritual dryness or even lack of focus. One writer puts it, “As soon as this holy season of Easter is over, and we no longer have the celebration of its mysteries to enlighten and cheer us, we shall find ourselves at the old work of battling with the three enemies: the devil, who is angered by the graces we have received; the world, to which we must unfortunately return; and our passions, which, after this calm, will again awaken, and molest us.”2 

What then should we do in order to make this season, more relaxed as it is than Lent and Easter, a fruitful one? I will provide three things to keep in mind during Ordinary Time in order to live our faith more fully.


Routine Can Be a Good Thing

One thing we can work on at this time of year is a prayer routine. The times of Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter are busy–important mysteries are constantly being put before us. But in the calmer season of Ordinary Time, we can more easily settle into a healthy and balanced prayer routine. It can be a good time of year to decide that we will wake up early to pray before beginning the day, or to become more consistent with the Holy Rosary. Another excellent weekly routine can be devised around a preparation for the upcoming Sunday, by making Saturday a day to make a good examination of conscience and sacramental confession, as well as pray with the readings for the Sunday Mass in lectio divina. Finally, developing habits of prayer where they might be missing can also be fruitful at this time of year, such as praying before meals or making a nightly examine (reviewing the blessings of the day and our shortcomings). 

Others of us will already have a solid prayer routine and have diligently kept up even extra devotions during the time of Lent and Easter. Ordinary time hits us at the same time that we feel a little tired from the more strenuous seasons. One should remember that summer is traditionally a time when even many religious in monasteries alter their strict schedules somewhat. This time of year can be good for us to relax slightly and allow for a short breather–especially since a slightly calmer prayer life at this time can prevent us from allowing prayer to fall off entirely due to burn out.


Don’t Give Up on Feasting and Fasting

Ordinary time comes on the heels of seasons devoted to fasting and feasting. But that does not mean that these important practices should go away at this time! Think back to the diligence you may have had when aided by fasting during lent. Or to the joys of Easter. We can have this same experience all year, if we keep Ordinary Time as we should.

Try to make fasting a part of your routine during ordinary time. Fridays and Wednesdays are traditional days to observe some kind of penance, especially abstinence from meat. We can also devote Ordinary time to celebrating Sunday well by resting, prayer, and feasting with family and friends. Incorporating a day of penance each friday and a day of feasting each Sunday is a simple way to keep things fresh and to avoid monotony and dryness during this time of year. 

Another approach could be to examine the liturgical calendar for each upcoming week and to find a feast that we wish to celebrate. Fasting on the eve of a feast is a great way to prepare one’s heart, soul, and body to celebrate the feast well. This has the added benefit of giving us a chance to learn more about a saint whose feast we may not have ever paid much attention to before.


The Season of the Holy Spirit and the Church

Thirdly, it can be helpful to recall that this period of Ordinary Time is really a continuation of the unfolding life of Christ we had begun at Advent. Now that Christ has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, he also sent the Holy Spirit upon his Church. This long period of time following is truly therefore a commemoration of the age of the Church, in which we are now living. Now that Christ has gone to heaven, His mission is continued here on earth by the members of his mystical body. 

The calmer season of Ordinary Time is therefore a fitting time to focus on this mystery, that we continue Christ’s life as his members. Practically, we can use this time to serve others through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. We could also devote time to preaching the Gospel, whether in our daily lives or in a more formal way as a catechist at our parish. 

In former years, this portion of Ordinary Time was referred to as “Time After Pentecost” due to the way the Sundays throughout the year were numbered. It is helpful to recall that in this age of the Church’s ministry, we need the Holy Spirit. Let us devote our time praying to Him, and praying for his gifts. The Church cannot exist without the Holy Spirit, and we cannot be sanctified without Him. We should remember to call upon the Holy Spirit and ask him to empower us to live the Gospel fruitfully at this time of year.

Congregation for Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, February 14, 1969,

Dom Prosper Gueranger, “Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension,” The Liturgical Year, Paschal Time Book III, 215.