Sunday, February 1, 2015

Septuagesima: A Note from Fr. Andersen

This is Fr. Eric Andersen's "Bulletin Letter for Feb. 1, 2015"

Septuagesima: The Seventy Days Before Easter

In the Traditional Roman Rite, as in the other liturgical rites of the Catholic Church, we today commence a mini-liturgical season called Septuagesima, meaning 70.  This seventy refers to a 70-day period before Easter.  This is a notable part of the liturgical year which is present in the Greek Church represented by numerous Eastern rites of Catholicism and the Orthodox Christians.  This Pre-Lenten season comprises three weeks before Lent called Septuagesima, meaning seventy; Sexagesima, meaning sixty; and Quinquagesima, meaning fifty.  This is followed by Quadragesima, meaning forty.  Quadragesima is the actual term the Church uses to refer to Lent.  The word Lent is an English word meaning spring, whereas Quadragesima refers to the 40 days.

Now, why do we have this three week Pre-Lenten season? “In past centuries Pre-Lent was compared to the seventy year captivity of the Jews and regarded as a time of suffering for sin” (Parsch.  The Church’s Year of Grace.  Vol. II., p. 6).  Seven also represents the first covenant.  In the Bible, seven refers to fullness, but in terms of the Old Covenant, it is a number which is not yet completed.

 The first covenant is remembered in the traditional Office of Matins during Septuagesima, when the creation of the world is revisited.  Genesis Chapter One commences this liturgical period.  It is said that Septuagesima was the original beginning of the Liturgical Year, marked by the beginning of the Bible being read in the liturgy.  In this opening account of the Creation of the World, there are six days of creation and the seventh day is the day on which God rested. One can say, then, that from that seventh day, that Sabbath, God rested until the Passion of Jesus Christ who, upon His Resurrection, initiated the Eighth Day, the Day of the Lord, the fulfillment of the Sabbath.  So, these 70 days, recalling the Old Covenant, lead up to Easter, which is the Eighth Day, and the beginning of the New Covenant.

We begin preparing now for that Eighth Day at Easter.  This Sunday is considered the “seventieth day” before Easter, although during these three weeks each week represents ten days, so that it is liturgically seventy days, but actually 63 days, before the Pasch.  Advent is treated the same way in the Western Church during which each of the four weeks represents ten days, thus equalling a “40-day” preparation for the Nativity.

Historically, “All religious (began) the fast of Lent at Septuagesima; the Greeks, at Sexagesima; the clergy, at Quinquagesima; and the rest of Christians, who form the Church militant on earth, (began) their Lent on the Wednesday following Quinquagesima” [which is Ash Wednesday] (Peter of Blois. qtd. Gueranger The Liturgical Year. Vol. 4., p. 3).  Eastern Christians observe Sexagesima Sunday as Meatfare Sunday, when they begin their fasting from meat.  Quinquagesima Sunday is called in the East Cheesefare Sunday when they begin their fast from dairy until Easter. Eastern Christians fast from meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, wine and oil from this time through Great Lent until Easter.  We in the West are only required to fast from animal flesh but are allowed eggs, dairy, fish, wine and oil.  Knowing the discipline in the East can be helpful for those who are looking to enhance their own voluntary Lenten discipline.
Let us use this time of preparation before Lent.  Let us cultivate the soil of our souls.  Let us begin by meditating on the word of God.  Then let us clear out our houses of any source of distraction from living the spiritual life.  Then when Ash Wednesday comes along, we will be prepared to begin the 40 day fast.  Let us prepare now for that day.  

No comments:

Post a Comment