Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Countdown Easter: Septuagesima

Ash Wednesday: closer than you think.

My latest for Catholic Answers.

Until the reform of the calendar in 1969, Latin Rite Catholics observed a period of preparation for Lent: the three Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. The names are derived from Latin numbers: Lent is quadragesima, “forty,” septuagesima “seventy,” sexagesima “sixty,” and quinquagesima “fifty.” It is a (very rough) countdown to Easter.

As in Lent, during this period, the liturgical color is violet, and the readings and prayers refer to our need for conversion and penance. This season is actually older than Ash Wednesday; it is discussed in the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great, who died in the year 604. There is a similar pre-Lent season in the calendars of the Eastern churches; it was preserved by the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and in some Lutheran calendars; it has been restored in Divine Worship, the liturgy of the Ordinariate; and it is still found in celebrations of the pre-Vatican II Mass, the usus antiquior. It is the post-Vatican II calendar, in fact, that is unusual in doing without Septuagesima.

Read it all there.

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