Sunday, February 9, 2020

Septuagesima Sunday

"Upon the waters of Babylon, there we sat and wept, as we remembered Zion." ~Psalm 136 (Vulgate)
It is Septuagesima Sunday, according to the traditional calendar. The season of Septuagesima is a time to start thinking about Lent; the "seventy" days until Easter are symbolic, among other things, of the seventy years of the Israelites' Babylonian captivity. We have all made mistakes; it is not too late to make amends while there is still time. We are being given a second chance. Redemption is at hand.

According to Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year, Vol. IV: "We are sojourners upon this earth: we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, we long to return to it...."

Fr. Mark Kirby expresses it thus:
The seventy-day period that begins with Septuagesima recalls the seventy-year exile of the children of Israel in Babylon. Seventy is the perfect number, signifying that God has fixed for us a delay of mercy to pass from the anguish of sinful Babylon to the beatitude of Jerusalem. “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Ps 136:4). We do well to recall Pope John Paul II’s assertion that, “the power that imposes a limit on evil is Divine Mercy.” The seventy days before Pascha signify this, and so become a season of hope for all who sit and weep by the waters of Babylon (cf. Ps 136:1).
At the same time, the history of the world is divided into seven ages. The first is from the creation of the world to the flood; the second, from the renewal after the flood to the call of Abraham; the third from the covenant with Abraham to the call of Moses; the fourth from Moses to King David; the fifth from the reign of David to the Babylonian exile; and the sixth from return from captivity to the birth of Christ. With the birth of Our Lord comes the seventh age: the appearance of the Sun of Justice who rises over the world “with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2). This seventh age of “these last days” (Heb 1:2) stretches until Christ’s second coming as Judge of the living and the dead. The seven weeks before Pascha are a review of salvation history.
In the traditional Roman Rite Septuagesima Sunday is marked by putting away the Alleluia; the Gloria is omitted and, already, violet vestments are used in preparation for Lent. Sound psychology and practical pastoral wisdom indicate the need for a kind of countdown before Ash Wednesday. Otherwise Lent arrives all of a sudden, finding us flustered and frightfully ill prepared. (Read more.)
We are far away but drawing ever nearer; let us encourage our fellow travelers, and keep on going. In a little while it will be eternity.

Fr. Mark offers some suggested readings for lectio divina during Septuagesima week.


Diamantina, aka Gentillylace said...

While I appreciate and enjoy many post-Vatican II reforms, it is a shame that the Novus Ordo Mass does not have Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays on its calendar. Of course, I suspect that in the traditional calendar, Candlemas often comes after Septuagesima, which means that traditional Catholics are preparing for Lent while the Christmas season is still in session. Not this year, thank goodness -- we had two days separating Candlemas from Septuagesima! :-)

elena maria vidal said...

I remember hearing from the nuns how they would overlap, with Septuagesima coming before Candlemas. Then the creche would be surrounded by purple vestments...not totally inappropriate if you think of the sorrows of the Infant Jesus.

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