Friday, February 18, 2011

The third Sunday before Ash Wednesday: Septuagesima

About 70 days before Easter, a season of "preparation for Lent" begins with "Septuagesima" Sunday (the third before Ash Wednesday).  The name comes from the tradtional name for Lent, "Quadragesima" (the forty days), and counts each of the Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday in a Latin-prefix-backwards sort of way.  The Sunday before Ash Wednesday is "Quinquagesima"; the Sunday prior to that is "Sexagesima," and the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday is "Septuagesima."

From this page at Holy Trinity German Catholic Church in Boston:

So important was Lent to both Eastern and Western Christians that they actually had a separate season to prepare for it. Thus, the day after Septuagesima Sunday, they would begin a period of voluntary fasting that would grow more severe as it approached the full and obligatory fast of Lent. The amount of food would be reduced, and the consumption of certain items, such as butter, milk, eggs, and cheese, would gradually be abandoned. Starting on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, this self-imposed asceticism would culminate in abstinence from meat. Thus the name for this seven-day period before Ash Wednesday, is "Carnival," from the Latin carne levarium, meaning "removal of meat." Finally, within the week of Carnival, the last three days (the three days prior to Lent) would be reserved for going to confession This period was known as  "Shrovetide," from the old English word "to shrive," or to have one's sins forgiven through absolution.

These incremental steps eased the faithful into what was one of the holiest -- and most demanding -- times of the year. Lent is a sacred period of forty days set aside for penance, contrition, and good works. Just as Septuagesima imitates the seventy years of Babylonian exile (see elsewhere), Quadragesima ("forty," the Latin name for Lent) imitates the holy periods of purgation recorded in the Old Testament. The Hebrews spent forty years wandering in the wilderness after their deliverance from the Pharoah and before their entrance into the Promised Land. Moses, representative of the Law, fasted and prepared forty days before ascending Mount Sinai, as did Elias, the greatest of the Hebrew prophets. (So too did the gentile Ninevites in response to Jonah's prophecy.) Moreover, these Old Testament types are ratified by the example of our Lord, who fasted forty days in the desert before beginning His public ministry. 

Given the significance of the number forty as a sign of perfection-through-purgation, it is little wonder that Lent became associated early on with two groups of people: public penitents and catechumens. The former were sinners guilty of particularly heinous crimes. To atone for their sins, they received a stern punishment from their bishop on Ash Wednesday and then spent the next forty days wearing sackloth and ash and not bathing. The visual, tactile, and odiferous unpleasantness of this practice was meant to remind others-- and themselves -- of the repulsiveness of sin. These penitents would remain in this state until they were publicly welcomed back into the Church during a special Mass on Maundy Thursday morning.  [See this post and the video posted there for what I assume is the Sarum version of this rite.]  Catechumens, on the other hand, underwent a rigorous period of instruction and admonition during Lent. They, too, were not allowed to bathe as part of their contrition for past sins. Near the start of Lent they would be exorcized with the formula that is still used in the traditional Roman rite of baptism: "Depart, thou accursed one!" In the middle of Lent they would learn the Apostle's Creed so that they could recite it on Holy Saturday, and on Palm Sunday they would learn the Lord's Prayer. Finally, on Holy Thursday they would bathe and on Holy Saturday undergo a dramatic ritual during the Easter Vigil formally initiating them into the Body of Christ. Over time, all Catholics would imitate these two groups as a recognition of personal sinfulness and as a yearly re-avowal of the Christian faith. Lent is thus not only a time to probe the dark recesses of our fallen souls and to purge ourselves, with the cooperative grace of Christ, of our stains, but to be renewed in our commitment to live a holy Christian life.

Lent is often thought of as an undifferentiated block of time preceding Easter: It is not. There are actually several distinct "mini-seasons" within Lent designed to move the believer from a more general recognition of the need for atonement (Ash Wednesday to the third Sunday of Lent) to a more specific meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ (Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday). These two periods, in turn, are separated by a brief interlude of restrained joy called mid-Lent, which begins on the Wednesday before Laetare Sunday and ends the Wednesday after. Finally, the meditation on our Lord's suffering culminates during Holy Week with a Mass each day presenting a different Gospel account of the Passion, the divine office of Tenebrae on Spy Wednesday, and the three great liturgies of the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) that dwell at length on the final events of Christ's earthly life and the mysteries of the Christian Pasch.

There is more about pre-Lent, and about Septuagesima Sunday (by Dom Gueranger) at the website of St. John Cantius in Chicago.

The 'gesima system has been abandoned now in the West, by everybody that I know of except Extraodinary Form Catholics.

It's too bad, though - because this system seems to have been a sort of parallel to the Eastern Orthodox preparations for Lent, when gradually meat, then fish, then cheese are dropped from the diet in preparation for the really strict Orthodox fast.

In previous times, too, there were chant propers particular to each of the 'gesima Sundays, which could be used no matter when Easter fell that year.  In that system, distinct propers existed for the First, Second, and Third Sundays after Epiphany, and then if there were more Sundays before Septuagesima, the propers for Epiphany 3 were used again. 

Now, though, there are distinct propers assigned for every Sunday following Epiphany (up to nine, as there are this year, when Easter is just about as late as it can be).  Most years, most of these are not used.

The Introit for Septuagesima is "Circumdederunt Me."  (Text and translation below.)  Here it is:

Pre-Lent - Septuagesima: Introit from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

And here's Cristóbal de Morales' polyphonic version of this:

(In another instance of the wonderful and poignant harmony of the  propers with each other and with the Great Church Year, "Circumdederunt  Me" ("I am surrounded") has also traditionally been sung on Palm Sunday or Good Friday, albeit using a different text and tune:


I am still looking for recorded music and chant scores for all the these propers online - I'm sure I'll find them - but meantime, below are all the proper texts for this Sunday, courtesy of the Traditional Latin Mass in Maryland blog. (EDIT:  In the comments, d.V. of that blog gives credit to the "Tridentine Avenger" for these propers, and leaves a most helpful link as well, to all the propers for the EF; many thanks, d.V.):


2nd Class


INTROIT ¤ Ps. 17. 5-7

Circumdederunt me gemitus mortus, dolores inferni circumdederunt me: et in tribulatione mea invocavi Dominum, et exaudivit de templo sancto suo vocem meam. -- Diligam te, Domine, fortitudo mea: Dominus firmamentum meum, et refugium meum, et liberator meus.  V.: Gloria Patri . . . --
Circumdederunt me gemitus . . .
The sorrows of death surrounded me, the sorrows of hell encompassed me; and in my affliction I called upon the Lord, and He heard my voice from His holy temple. -- (Ps.17. 2, 3). I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength: the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.  V.:  Glory be
to the Father . . . -- The sorrows of death surrounded me . . .

The Gloria in Excelsis is not said.

COLLECT.--Graciously hear, we beseech thee, O Lord, the prayers of Thy people, that we, who are justly afflicted for our sins, may for the glory of Thy Name, be mercifully delivered.  Through our Lord . .

EPISTLE ¤ 1 Cor. 9. 24-27; 10. 1-5

Lesson from the Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.

[The Apostle St. Paul compares our life to an arena where we must fight and mortify ourselves, if we wish to obtain the victory.]
   Brethren, Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize?  So run that you may obtain.  And every one that striveth for the mastery refraineth himself from all things; and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible one.  I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty; I so fight, not as one beating the air: but I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.  For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud and in the sea: and did all eat the same spiritual food, and drank the same spiritual drink: (that they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was Christ.)  But with most of them God was not well pleased.

GRADUAL ¤ Ps. 101. 16-17

Adjutor in opportunitatibus, in tribulatione: sperent in te, quo noverunt te: quoniam non derelinquis quaerentes te, Domine.  V.:  Quoniam non in finem oblivio erit pauperis: patientia pauperum non peribit in aeternum: exsurge, Domine, non praevaleat homo. A Helper in due time in tribulation: let them trust in Thee who know Thee: for Thou hast not forsaken them that seek Thee, O Lord.  V.: For the poor man shall not be forgotten to the end: the patience of the poor shall not perish for ever: arise, O Lord, let not man prevail.

TRACT ¤ Ps. 129. 1-4

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: Domine, exaudi vocem meam.  V.:  Fiant aures tuae intendentes in orationem servi tui.  V.:  Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine: Domine, quis sustinebit?  V.:  Quia apud te propitiatio est, et propter legem uam sustinui te, Domine. Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord: Let Thine ears be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant.  V.:  If Thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it?  V.: For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness, and by reason of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord.

GOSPEL ¤ Matth. 20. 1-16

† Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.

[The parable of the vineyard shows us that we must all work to obtain the reward of eternal life.]
At that time Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: The kingdom of God is like to a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers in his vineyard.  And having agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.  And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market place idle, and he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.  And they went their way.  And again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour: and did in like manner.  But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle?  The say to him: Becase no man hath hired us.  He saith to them: Go you also into my vineyard.  And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the laborers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first.  When therefore they were come that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.  But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: and they also received every man a penny.  And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house, saying: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us that have borne the burden of the day and the heats.  But he answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst thou not agree with me for a penny?  Take what is thine and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee.  Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will?  Is thine eye evil, because I am good?  So shall the last be first, and the first last.  For many are called, but few chosen.

OFFERTORY ¤ Ps. 91. 2

Bonum est confiteri Domino, et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime. It is good to give praise to the Lord, and to sing to Thy Name, O Most High.

SECRET.--Receive our offerings and prayers, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and both cleanse us by these heavenly mysteries, and graviously hear us.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth . . .


Preface of the Most Holy Trinity

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper, et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus.  Qui cum unigenito Filio tuo, et Spiritu Sancto, unus es Deus, unus es Dominus: non in unius singularitate personae, sed in unius Trinitate substantiae.  Quod enim de tua gloria, revelante te, credimus, hoc de Filio tuo, hoc de Spiritu Sancto, sine differentia discretionis sentimus.  Ut in confessione verae, sempiternaeque Deitatis, et in personis proprietas, et in essentia unitas, et in majestate adoretur aequalitas.  Quam laudant Angeli atque Archangeli, Cherubim quoque ac Seraphim: qui non cessant clamare quotidie, una voce dicentes:
It it truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God; Who, together with Thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, art one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance.  For what we believe by Thy revelation of Thy glory, the same do we believe of Thy Son, the same of the Holy Ghost, without difference or separation.  So that in confessing
the true and everlasting Godhead, distinction in persons, unity in essence, and equality in majesty may be adored.  Which the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim also and Seraphim do praise: who cease not daily to cry out, with one voice saying:

COMMUNION ¤ Ps. 30. 17-18

Illumina faciem tuam super servum tuum, et salvum me fac in tua misericordia: Domine, non confundar, quoniam invocavi te. Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant, and save me in Thy mercy: let me not be confounded, O Lord, for I have called upon Thee.

POSTCOMMUNION.--May Thy faithful people, O God, be strengthened by Thy gifts; that in receiving them, they may seek after them the more, and in seeking them, may receive them for ever.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee. . .


Deo volente said...

Thanks for the link, but the Propers for Septuagesima are those of Tridentine Avenger, a most helpful chap.

If you'd like the entire Mass in English and Latin, it is to be found here: . The site is Maternal Heart.Org and is in PDF format.

The Rene Goupil site has the scores for some of the Propers now listed. You might check there.

Thanks for the link! Love your blog!


bls said...

Ah, thanks, d.V. Will edit the post to give proper credit. And thanks to you, too, for the links.

Blessings -


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