Friday, January 22, 2016

Septuagesima 2016

The gospel for Septuagesima Sunday was Matthew 20:1-16.
I haven't quite figured out how this fits in with the day,
but I like this picture.
On the pre-Vatican II liturgical calendar, this Sunday is Septuagesima Sunday. Septuagesima means 70 days, and signifies (roughly) the 70 days before Easter (It's really 66.) It falls on the third Sunday before Lent, and if you can't believe that we are already within a month of Ash Wednesday, well, join the crowd. I haven't even put my crêche away yet.

Septuagesima Sunday marks the beginning of a period during which we examine our lives, repent, and discern what we will be doing penance for during Lent. I wrote a longer post about this two years ago. This year, however, marks the first time in my life that I have ever remembered Septuagesima Sunday before the day.

Lately I have been thinking about the words contrition and compunction. Contrition comes from a Latin word which means worn out, ground to pieces. Compunction comes from a word that means to severely prick; sting, or to pierce. It seems to have a connotation of being pierced to the heart. I have at times felt pierced to the heart by the realization of the weight of my sins, and I have more frequently felt worn out and ground to pieces by that weight, but for the most part, I don't. I'm sorry that I sin, and I want to quit sinning, and I go to Confession fairly frequently, but really, my sorrow is pretty much of an intellectual sort. And I suspect that I am not alone. Now this is not really bad. The sort of contrition that is an act of the will, and a determination to turn away from sin (hopeless as this may seem) is all that is necessary for forgiveness, but occasionally it's a good idea to attempt something more.

All of this points to the benefit of taking advantage of this period before Lent when we can prepare ourselves to observe Lent more fruitfully. It is a time when we can spend time looking at the fruit of our sin, how it weakens us, and how it negatively effects others, especially those in our family. It is a time when we can remember all the graces we have been given, and how ungrateful we have been. I think that this kind of reflection will provide the impetus to enter into the penance of Lent in a new way.



  1. Thanks for this. I'd been thinking about thinking about preparing for Lent before it started, and this does rather help with that.

  2. Any plans or suggestions for Lenten reading?

    I've got hold of an old copy of Daniélou's The Bible and the Liturgy, but haven't had time to read more than the dust cover. I don't know if that would suit the season. Is there any chance that Grumpy might happen by and advise?

    Then again, I'm supposed to be reviewing this tome for the Revue d'Histoire Ecclésiastique, so perhaps I should just press on with that ...

  3. I hope she will. Or maybe you could message her on Facebook. I'm going to finish Reed of God before I do anything else.


  4. It would be a great idea to read or re-read The Bible and the Liturgy by Danielou. If it does not grab you, I would recommend trying Louis Bouyer. I myself am going to continue listening to the tapes of The Spirituality of the Twelve Steps, by Vogt. My nephew gave me a small CD player for my birthday, so I can now listen to it without sitting six inches away from my lap top. I'd like to read Danielou's Memoirs, but all my books are at home in boxes. Grumpy

    1. Thanks Grumpy! I think I will give Danielou a bash. I finished The Reed of God between Christmas and New Year, but I'm inclined to read the whole thing again next advent (God willing).