Things have finally greened up.
That doesn’t refer to the lawn outside of church, but rather to the color of the vestments and liturgical decorations inside it.
Because of the seasons of Lent and Easter, and the feasts of Pentecost, the Most Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ, we haven’t seen green on Sunday in church since the end of February. (For weekday Masses, we returned to using green on June 6.)
The use of green signifies Ordinary Time at Mass. Purple is used for Advent and Lent, white for Easter and feasts of the Lord and the saints (except for martyrs) and red is for the Holy Spirit, the Passion of the Lord and for feasts of the martyrs.
Ordinary Time is the longest time in the church year and it is broken into two parts: a shorter time that follows Epiphany and runs until Ash Wednesday; and the longer time which comes after Easter and lasts until Advent.
Ordinary Time doesn’t mean that this time of the year isn’t important. It just means that it’s not part of a big season, like Christmas, Lent or Easter. “Ordinary Time” is called “ordinary” because of its Latin root word: ordinalis, which means “ordered” or “counted.” The Sundays of Ordinary Time are indeed counted. That is why we have numbered Sundays. There are 33 or 34 Sundays in Ordinary Time, depending on when Easter falls in a year. (The last Sunday in Ordinary Time is now celebrated as the feast of Christ the King.)
Ordinary Time, while not highlighting a particular church festival season, does highlight the life and teachings of Jesus. It is during these Sundays of Ordinary Time that we hear the parables, the Beatitudes, the stories of healing and of new life. Ordinary Time tells us about when ordinary life happened all around Jesus — except that it was colored by his presence. And, in that time, the seeds of the church were planted to grow up green and fresh from that time until this very day.
As the U.S. bishops’ council tells us, “Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation, a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate ever more deeply into history until all things are finally caught up in Christ.”
So Ordinary Time is a time to “green up,” to grow and mature in Christ as we prepare for the time when he returns and gathers the harvest into the eternal kingdom.
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of many books