Monday, February 9, 2009

Septuagesima Sunday

It's hard to believe that we're into the pre-Lenten season, but with the third Sunday before Lent begins, we're there. Whew ... it's hard enough to just believe that we're already into February....

But what is Septuagesima? I'll let the Beadle of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity fill us in from his blog:

Septuagesima Sunday is the name given to the third Sunday before Lent. The term is sometimes applied to the period of the liturgical year which begins on this day and lasts through Shrove Tuesday (with the following day being Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins). This period is also known as the Pre-Lenten season or Shrovetide. The next two Sundays are labelled Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, the latter sometimes also called Shrove Sunday.

The earliest Septuagesima Sunday can occur is January 18 (Easter falling on March 22 in nonleap year) and the latest is February 22 (Easter falling on April 25 in leap year.) Septuagesima comes from the Latin word for "seventieth," with Sexagesima and Quinquagesima equalling "sixtieth" and "fiftieth" respectively. They are patterned after the Latin word for the season of Lent, Quadragesima, which means "fortieth" because Lent is forty days long (not counting the Sundays, which are all considered little Easters).

Because a week is only seven days long, not ten, and since even then only six of those days might be counted if the pattern of Quadragesima is followed, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, don't literally correspond to the periods of time they imply. It is interesting, however, that just about 70 days (68 actually) is the minimum number of days between the octave day of the Epiphany on January 14 and Easter, implying that a season just about 70 days long can always fit between the two.

The 17-day period beginning on Septuagesima Sunday was intended to be observed as a preparation for the season of Lent, which is itself a period of spiritual preparation (for Easter). In many countries, however, Septuagesima Sunday still marks the start of the carnival season, culminating on Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Mardi Gras. The Gospel reading for Septuagesima week is the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16).

Fr. Bosco Peters in New Zealand also wrote about Septuagesima on his blog, and you can read about it by clicking here: Liturgy

So Lent is peeking around the corner at us, a mere three Sundays away. And Lent brings so many things into play: penitence, fasting, prayer, focus, confession. Yep, Lent is just around the bend....

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