SEASON OF SEPTUAGESIMA
From “The St. Andrew Daily Missal” (1937)
The Septuagesima season always begins with the ninth week before
Easter and includes three Sundays called respectively Septuagesima,
Sexagesima and Quinquagesima. These names which were borrowed from the
numeral system of the time, denote a series of decades working back from
the commencement of Lent, which is known in Latin as Quadragesima.
Easter is a movable feast and can be kept, according to the year in
which it occurs, between March 22 and April 25. When it falls early the
Septuagesima season encroaches on the time after Epiphany, some Sundays of
which are then kept between the twenty-third and the last Sunday after
This liturgical period is a prelude to Lent and a remote preparation
for Easter. It serves as a time of transition for the soul, which must pass
from Christmas joys to the stern penance of the sacred forty days. Even if
the fast is not yet of obligation, the colour of the vestments worn is
already violet. As during Advent, the recital of the Gloria in excelsis is
suspended, since this hymn which celebrated Christ’s birth in our mortal
flesh, is reserved to extol Him when born in His undying body, i.e. when He
rises from the tomb. “Born once of the Virgin, thou art now reborn from
the sepulcre,” will then be the cry of the Church. Again the Martyrology
introduces Septuagesima Sunday as that on which “we lay aside the song of
the Lord which is Alleluia.” “How, said the people of Israel, “shall
we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?”
This “strange land” is for the people of Christ, the world, which
is a place of exile, while the Alleluia, the chant St. John heard in
heaven, will begin again in the liturgy at Paschaltide, which represents
the future life. In the Easter festivities we shall hail our Lord, the
conqueror of Satan, who while freeing us from the bondage of sin, will
re-open to us the heavenly kingdom. The season of Lent which lasts for
forty days (Quadragesima) and that of Septuagesima which is made up of the
following periods of ten days (Quinquagesima, Sexagesima and Septuagesima)
may well be taken as representing the seventy years passed by Israel in
exile under the harsh captivity of the Babylonians. The chant of Alleluia
is silent during this period in which the spirit and very name remind us so
strongly, that we are “poor banished children… mourning and weeping in
this vale of tears” (Salve Regina).
The Season of Septuagesima ends in the Temporal Cycle on Ash Wednesday.
In the Sanctoral Cycle its extreme limit is March 10, that is, when Easter
falls on April 25.
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