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What is Septuagesima?

Today is the start of Pre-Lent in The Ordinariate. In Ordinary Form parishes it is Ordinary Time VI. The Ordinariate has restored a Pre-Lenten period as a way of helping the faithful to spiritually and physically prepare to keep a Holy Lent. We do this by thinking about Creation, our human nature, The Fall, the way of all sin, Original Sin, and God's salvific plan called "The Covenants." We will find these in the Genesis reading in the Daily Office all this week. The Mass readings for this season were originally composed by St. Gregory the Great, who sent St. Augustine to Canterbury to evangelize the Britons.

This season emphasizes not only human sinfulness, but also the need for Christ, and that we are required to take an active part in receiving and working out his graces given to us. There is no "salvation by work alone" nor "salvation by faith alone" in Septuagesima, but both grace and faith accompanied by work.

Septuagesima means "seventieth" because it falls "within" the 61 to 70 day range from Easter. Today we are 63 days away from Easter (11 more days in February plus 31 in March plus 21 since Easter is April 21st this year).

This season allows for us to enter Lent at a reasonable pace. Here we can look to our Eastern brethren, the Byzantine Catholics amongst others for guidance. They have "Cheesefare" and "Meetfare" several weeks prior to Lent. Each "fare" is not a carnival so much as a time in which they wean off meat and cheese respectively. In the West we've had a much more "Carnival" custom of getting as much as possible all the way till Fat Tuesday. Unfortunately that's led to the secularization of Fat Tuesday and Epiphanytide into the excessive practices of Mardi Gras and Carnival which have lost almost all semblances of their Catholic substance.

There is nothing wrong with a final hurrah to what you're fasting, only, you have to fast after that! The easier thing to do is to lean out of it. This is more in accordance with The Catholic Church's teachings on how repeated, self-willed acts become habits. Start thinking about your Lenten fast and prepare for askesis: spiritual athletic training.

Septuagesima Tradition

  • Violet vestments come out to signify a turn to penance.

  • No Gloria ("Glory be to God on High) during Mass except for Maundy Thursday and Solemnities until The Easter Vigil. This places an emphasis on the need for Christ for salvation.

  • No "Alleluia" from First Evensong until the Vigil of Easter to signify that we are in an Exile period, whether from Eden or from Israel, exiled to The World or Babylon, and salvation will not come until Easter Sunday.

  • The Te Deum is not said on Sundays in The Office. It is replaced with the Benedicite which signifies that we are still in Day 7 of Creation, awaiting for the 8th Day when all is fulfilled by Christ.

Septuagesima traditions

  • The "Burying of the Alleluia" - look it up!

  • You may cease using flowers at the altar (not allowed during Lent proper)

Septuagesima Devotion

  • (1) Following the The Daily Office readings, it is meet and right to meditate throughout the day on God's good Creation. Meditate on the Genesis passage of the day. It is good to reflect on the good thing you are and were made to be, but also on Original Sin and how the way of all flesh is now corrupted and destined for the Gates of Death. Reflect on God's great mercy and goodness, and how despite your particular sins, He has goodwill toward you, that you should return to him. Meditate on how your forefather Abraham and the Covenant God made with him is evidence that God wills the salvation of Man. Reflect also on our failure to uphold Abraham's Covenant and the need for Christ. In reflecting on these sins say, "O LORD, in my sins and in my being as a creature I AM NOT, but in your infinite goodness and mercy Thou art the I AM. Forgive me my sins, have compassion on me, and show me The Way that is your Son, that I may prepare to keep a Holy Lent. O Holy Ghost, reveal to me what you would have me do this year."

  • (2) The antiphon for Second Evensong and some of the Mass readings this week focus on the man who hires day laborers to till his vineyard. Have you been working out your faith all your life, half, are you a "re-vert" or a recent convert? Have you been week in your faith, weak in working it out, a weak laborer unwilling take on spiritual fasts, abstinences, almsgiving, prayer, and spiritual reading that you might grow closer to Christ? Which laborer are you in the story? Meditate on how all receive the same day wage at the end of the day, but all are required to willfully work. Think about how you have grieved your Father in showing up late or not at all, or have complained while bearing the sun of the day, or have worked sparingly or half-heartedly. Recommit your life to God Almighty praying, "LORD, I am your unworthy servant and deserving of all punishments you would put on me. Have mercy on me and teach me thy paths that I may walk in them. Help me to work out my faith in fear and trembling as a good day laborer in cooperation with the graces of God. Heavenly Father, you only discipline those you love, and any not disciplined are illegitimate children of your Kingdom. Help me to take on self-discipline this Lent that I through the aid and intercession of Holy Mary, we made be made worthy of the promises of Christ."

Collect for Septuagesima

O LORD, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people: that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


Illustration by Enid M. Chadwick from My Book of the Church's Year, originally for children. She went to a nun run school in Oxford and lived in in Walsingham, England from 1934-1987. Her artistry also is seen at the Our Lady of Walsingham Shrine in England.

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