Tempus per annum

That’s the Latin translation of “Ordinary Time.” (Except translation generally goes in the other direction – although, did you know you can read Harry Potter in Latin?) A more literal translation might be “Time/Season through the Year.” Nothing ordinary about it, but it is in order. Some have proposed “Ordered Time,” or this: “8th Week of the Church Year.” I would like that. But alas, our new English missal will keep calling it “Ordinary Time.” The German-speakers have a nice term, “im Jahreskreis” – “in the cycle/circle of the year.”

Rev. Bosco Peters of the Anglican Church in New Zealand helpfully explains the calendar layout of this time for Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians – see his “Proper Ordinary Time.”


  1. I like our modern calendar, but I have never liked the term “ordinary time” because it has more than one meaning in English. But if we must keep the term, which we are, why not call it Ordinary Time after Pentecost and Ordinary Time after Epiphany? So once we finished with all the Ordinary Time solemnities, we would have on June 13, the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time after Pentecost. Then eventually we could drop the word “ordinary” and just say the 11th Sunday in the Time after Pentecost. The same for January 16–The Second Sunday in Time after Epiphany.

    1. Wouldn’t it then be the First Sunday after Pentecost? Otherwise it would sound as though there had been 10 other Sundays after the great feast!

  2. A Protestant “tweaking” of the Lectionary created a “Last Sunday after the Epiphany” (Lutherans give the title “The Transfiguration of Our Lord”) using Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration. This brings a nice conclusion to a season of recounting the various manifestations of Christ–visit of the magi, baptism by John, miracle at Cana. Helps to define a season of Epiphany, and remind us that this is not-so-“Ordinary” time!

  3. Seems to me there was a time when Roman Catholic liturgical books in the USA at least used the term “of the year,” such as “Seventeenth Sunday of the Year,” rather than “Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.” I remember being a bit confused, wondering where the “year” began if counting 17 Sundays. Perhaps such confusion is what caused the switch (back) to “…in Ordinary Time.”

      1. How about “Yearly Cycle” which contrasts it with the seasons but gets away from the idea that is somehow less but rather a framework.

  4. Ordinary time for me and perhaps for many others means “dull time” when there isn’t anything special, feast or penance, going on at Sunday liturgy. The liturgies tend to get particularly dull during “dull” time.

    In Taft’s Liturgical Year course, I learned that the Lord’s Day is the primary feast, that Easter is just a bigger than normal Lord’s Day. Dies Domini is a great document for understanding that it is about a lot more than Easter.

    We get a lot of people on Christmas and Easter, and tend to put a lot of our liturgical resources into those seasons. Are we really communicating to people that these days are the only important ones? That Sunday liturgy is really just ordinary And perhaps they conclude that it is easily skipped when we have “special” things to do?

    At lot of people come late and leave early for Sunday Mass in my parish, usually right after communion. I noticed something interesting at Christmas evening Mass. Almost no one left early. Even though it was packed with many people standing. Even though many of them would have had a lot more reasons to bolt out than they probably have on an “ordinary” Sunday.

  5. Liturgy planners appear to have developed a fine art of picking “ordinary” hymns during ordinary time.

    They first cross out everything that would be extra “ordinary” used in the other seasons.

    Then they seem to look for all the “ordinary” hymns that no one knows, or no one likes, and pick those that have some vague connection with the readings for day.

    Then to make it Sunday, that pick a couple “oldies but goodies” that everybody likes and that they most people know how to sing. That way Sunday will have just an “ordinary” amount of festivity, and a certain plainness like ordinarily life.

    1. Another result from using “music at Mass” rather than the “music of Mass.” How many parishes stop singing the Gloria because it is “only Ordinary time”? Another musical issue is the summer portion of ordinary time is typically when a choir takes a few weeks or months off and the hired musical staff (like most of the parish staff) take vacation.

      1. Summer appears to be the perfect time for some grass roots initiatives to promote the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei in Gregorian chant. Does not take a lot of skill to do this. A few choir members could volunteer to do it while the choir takes a vacation. Does not even need accompaniment if you have a few strong voices to lead.

        Of course, one would want to do it in Latin because the English texts are going to change.

        If successful perhaps the Credo, and Pater Noster could be added with the addition of some of the sung dialogs.

        Gives a nice simple common framework applicable to both OF and EF and reminds people of both the Latin and Gregorian chant traditions.

        Perhaps these could be included from time to time during the rest of the year to introduce people to the fact that there is a Latin text, as well as a framework for the transition to the new Missal.

  6. Look at the narrative of Christ in the creed: he was born, suffered, died, buried, rose, and ascended into heaven. There we have the Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter seasons.

    But, it turns out, Jesus also did and said some things between the being born and bring crucified parts. That’s what ordinary time is for.

  7. Over two years my parish has been learning the missa simplex one piece at a time: agnus dei, then sanctus and amen. This summer we’re going to add the mysterium fidei and the gloria. It’s not as accessible or quick to learn as one of the popular-style settings, but once people know it they really sing. When the new translation comes along, we’ll have at least one common setting to help the transition.

    I’ve thought about introducing the missa de angelis, but it may be inaccessible to my assembly. It might work (with a big effort) at our choir Mass, but my cantors would be hard-pressed to teach it at the other Masses.

    Speaking of, I have an unorthodox idea. I’ve found it much easier to teach chant to the congregation at the one Sunday Mass with a choir to lead and support the singing, and harder at the other Masses with just a cantor. What if I were to play a recording of the unaccompanied chants for the congregation to sing along with, then over a few weeks gradually turn down the volume and withdraw the recording as they get more confident? This would give them the aural experience of being supported by a choir while they are getting their bearings. I’d have to be sure the recording didn’t become a crutch, but I really think it could help them learn the chants. Thoughts?

    1. I am not a musician. I learn music by ear, and it usually takes about 4 or 5 stanzas to become comfortable with a piece.

      You might try having people practice before Mass. Choirs usually practice, but somehow people are expected learn the piece during Mass, without any feedback. An organist in my parish in the 1980s developed very good congregational singing without a choir by practicing before Mass, using only one new or relatively unfamiliar hymn and taking time with it, then a refresher stanza for each of the other hymns just to be sure people could sing them..

      An organ can accompany chant, if you have one. It could also be faded out as people become stronger in their singing.

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