Since Sunday, 12th February 2017, we have been in the time traditionally known as Septuagesima, a time that marks the first of the three weeks before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. This time was described by the Church as “a prelude to Lent”, or as Dom Gasper Lefebvre called it, “a prelude for the soul”, which must transition from the joys of Christmas to the “stern penance” of the sacred forty days.
The Season of Septuagesima – Doctrinal Note from the St Andrew’s Daily Missal:
“After the fervent welcome given to our Lord by reason of “the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus” the Church suddenly confronts us with the gloomy depths of the fall of man. As in the Christmas cycle, she takes up once more the study of the Old Testament to show us all the great figures who heralded the redemptive work of Christ and whose history, symbolical of our Lord’s, is well calculated to prepare us for the great feast of Easter when we shall celebrate His triumph. “Search the scriptures,” said our Lord, “the same are they which give testimony of Me.”
Lex gravida Christo, – the Old Law is quite full of the thought of the Messias for in everything connected with God’s people our Lord was foretold and proclaimed. The Old Testament is like a gospel anticipated, lighting up with peculiar brilliance our Redeemer’s life. The Church loves to set up a constant parallel in her liturgy between the first and last pages of the Bible. This parallelism is followed up through the whole of Septuagesima and Lent and we shall find it once more, and very clearly, in the Time after Pentecost.
In this Missal will be shown how the masses of this season have been composed in relation to the lessons from the Old Testament which occur in the Breviary on the same days. The table which follows, and which will be explained in greater detail on the Sundays to which it refers, shows the order of the lessons from the divine office in the seasons of Septuagesima and Lent, and in what way the masses of these seasons should be studied in order to understand fully their meaning.
Sundays Breviary Lessons Motive of Masses
Septuagesima………………. History of Adam————–Christ the New Adam
Sexagesima……………………History of Noe—————-Christ the true Noe
Quinquagesima………………History of Abraham———-Christ the true Abraham
First Sunday of Lent……….(Isaac superseded by Lent)–Christ in the desert
Second Sunday of Lent……History of Jacob ————–Christ the true Jacob
Third Sunday of Lent………History of Joseph————-Christ the true Joseph
Fourth Sunday of Lent…….History of Moses————–Christ the true Moses
Christ repairs the losses caused by Adam; to the Church He is a true Noe, since He is the founder of a new people; more than Abraham is He the Head of the people whom God has chosen to be His people; in a better sense than Jacob is He the favourite and blessed one of God; more than Joseph does He return good for evil, and more effectively than Moses does He free His people from the bondage of sin and nourish them with the true bread come down from Heaven.
To blend in this way the history of God’s people, of our Lord and of the Church, is to enter into the attitude of mind which directed the composition of the Roman Missal and which had for its object, to enable the Church to share in the Paschal mystery which Israel foretold and Christ fulfilled.
During this season of Septuagesima, the Church lingers especially over the first three figures which we have named in the above table. There we see the fall of Adam resulting in original sin and its baneful consequences (Septuagesima); the malice of men, actual sin and the Flood which was its punishment (Sexagesima); and finally the sacrifices of Abraham and Melchisedech (Quinquagesima), which foreshadowed the sacrifice which God required from His own Son as a satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race.
This assertion of the dogma of original sin and the portrayal of its lamentable results, make His glorious title of Saviour stand out more clearly in our blessed Lord. [It was at Sichem where Abraham set up his first altar of Jehovah, that our Lord when in conversation with the Samaritan woman, for the first time proclaimed Himself the Saviour of men. Also it was Jerusalem, where Melchizedech was king, that He chose to be capital of His Kingdom. There we shall see Him set up His glorious throne of the Cross.]
The Gospel of the Labourers in the vineyard and that of the Sower, remind us that redemption extends to all men, Jew and Gentile alike, while the cure of the blind man at Jericho following the announcement of the Passion, shows us the salutary effects produced in us by the cross of Christ. The Epistles of St. Paul come in their turn during these three Sundays, to remind us that at this season, the Church must complete the Redeemer’s work by entering with courage upon the purifying discipline of penance.”
In this short video, Dr. Joseph Shaw, Chairman of The Latin Mass Society, gives us a succinct yet excellent explanation for the raison d’être of the season of Septuagesima.
A Meditation for this ‘Prelude to Lent’
“Each of us must come to the evening of life. Each of us must enter on eternity. Each of us must come to that quiet, awful time, when we will appear before the Lord of the vineyard, and answer for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad. That, my dear brethren, you will have to undergo. … It will be the dread moment of expectation when your fate for eternity is in the balance, and when you are about to be sent forth as the companion of either saints or devils, without possibility of change. There can be no change; there can be no reversal. As that judgment decides it, so it will be for ever and ever. Such is the particular judgment. … when we find ourselves by ourselves, one by one, in his presence, and have brought before us most vividly all the thoughts, words, and deeds of this past life. Who will be able to bear the sight of himself? And yet we shall be obliged steadily to confront ourselves and to see ourselves. In this life we shrink from knowing our real selves. We do not like to know how sinful we are. We love those who prophecy smooth things to us, and we are angry with those who tell us of our faults. But on that day, not one fault only, but all the secret, as well as evident, defects of our character will be clearly brought out. We shall see what we feared to see here, and much more. And then, when the full sight of ourselves comes to us, who will not wish that he had known more of himself here, rather than leaving it for the inevitable day to reveal it all to him!” – (Blessed Card. John Henry Newman)