TODAY marked the third anniversary of my appointment as the Pastor of St. Mary Parish. After celebrating my parish Masses for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mass of Pope Paul VI), I moved into the rich Pre-Lenten Season of Septuagesima as I prepared to travel to Sioux Falls to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.
The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard is the Gospel appointed for Septuagesima Sunday (St. Matthew 20: 1-16).
From THE LITURGICAL YEAR
By the Servant of God, DOM PROSPER GUÉRANGER (April 4, 1805 – January 30, 1875), ABBOT OF SOLESMES
The Three Pre-Lenten Sundays: Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima:
So important was Lent to both Eastern and Western Christians that they actually had a separate season to prepare for it. Thus, the day after Septuagesima Sunday, they would begin a period of voluntary fasting that would grow more severe as it approached the full and obligatory fast of Lent. The amount of food would be reduced, and the consumption of certain items, such as butter, milk, eggs, and cheese, would gradually be abandoned. Starting on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, this self-imposed asceticism would culminate in abstinence from meat. Thus the name for this seven-day period before Ash Wednesday is “Carnival,” from the Latin carne levarium, meaning “removal of meat.” Finally, within the week of Carnival, the last three days (the three days prior to Lent) would be reserved for going to confession. This period was known as “Shrovetide,” from the old English word “to shrive,” or to have one’s sins forgiven through absolution. These incremental steps eased the faithful into what was one of the holiest — and most demanding — times of the year.
Lent is a sacred period of forty days set aside for penance, contrition, and good works. Just as Septuagesima imitates the seventy years of Babylonian exile, Quadragesima (“forty,” the Latin name for Lent) imitates the holy periods of purgation recorded in the Old Testament.
SCHEMA OF THE PRE-LENTEN SUNDAYS LEADING UP TO THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT:
Traditional Pre-Lent (Septuagesimatide):
- Septuagesima Sunday. Exile and the need for asceticism. (Depositio of the Alleluia the night before.)
- Sexagesima Sunday. The perils of exile (persecution) and the fruits of asceticism (the Word being sown into our hearts.
- Thursday after Sexagesima: Carnival
- Shrove Monday. [Traditional time for confession]
- Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras. [Trad. time for confession]
- Quinquagesima Sunday (a.k.a. Carnival, or Shrove Sunday). “We are going up to Jerusalem” — a setting of the stage for the pilgrimage of Lent, and the one thing we must bring with us: charity. [Also, traditional time for going to confession]
- Ash Wednesday. The solemn season begins with a reminder of our mortality and our profound need for repentance and conversion.
- First Sunday of Lent. The model for our fasting, Christ in the desert, and the kinds of temptations we can expect to encounter.