Quinquagesima Sunday -the Vocation of Abraham

WattsBe thou unto me a God, a protector, and a place of refuge, to save me: for thou art my strength and my refuge: and for thy name’s sake thou wilt be my leader, and wilt nourish me. In thee , O Lord, I have hoped, let me never be confounded: deliver me in thy justice, and set me free.

Introit for the Mass, Quinquagesima Sunday

The pre-lenten preparations continue today with the drawing of our attention to the penitential nature of Lent. As Abbot Granger called today, it is the day on which we recall the vocation of Abraham: “preserved those sacred truths” revealed to us by the Divine Majesty. The Church reminds us that Abraham is the model of what complete trust and belief in God ought to look like: from adoring idols to belief in a personal, loving and just God. We know that God chooses us, just as he chose Abraham.

Abbot Ælfric of Eynsham (c. 955 – c. 1010) gives us an insight into this liturgical season when he encourages his monks, saying: “Now a pure and holy time draws near, in which we should atone for our neglect. Every Christian, therefore, should come to his confession and confess his hidden sins, and amend according to the guidance of his teacher.”

So, the key here is to resolve with God’s grace to make time to pray , go to confess sins, fast, and give alms.

As a point of comparison, the Eastern Churches mark this Sunday by abstaining from dairy; this minor penitential day is called Cheesefare Sunday (a “good bye” to dairy products until Easter).

Sexagesima Sunday –God’s extravagance

GesimasWith Vespers tonight, we keenly recall in the Liturgy the extravagance of God. Sunday is Sexagesima in the Extraordinary Form–there are roughly 60 days until Easter.

Comparatively, the Eastern Churches have also begun their preparation for Lent. The Byzantine Church will have Meat Fare Sunday this weekend; it introduces the beginning of faithful’s abstinence of meat.

We observed Septuagesima Sunday last week, and next week we observe Quinquagesima Sunday. The “Gesimas” are the preparatory weeks before for the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday in the Latin Church. The sacred Liturgy is characterized by the absence of the organ unless to support the signing, the suppression of the Gloria in excelsis and the Alleluia, and the priest dons violet vestments.

Dom Prosper Guéranger gives us a terrific sense of today’s Liturgy.

Moreover, you may want to read Lauren Priests’ 2010 insightful article, “Parachuted into Lent: The Suppression of Septuagesima.”

The overarching theological theme is the covenant God made with Noah due the Flood. The Gospel of Luke gives us the narrative of the sower of the seed.   We know the Sower is the Lord;  the seed is His Word.

The Word has gone out to the ends of the earth by the Divine Sower ushering in for us what is known as the biblical Hundredfold. There is no place where He has not cast seed.  Hence, we believe that God is extravagant in sharing His Word, His Love, His Justice, His  generosity, and ultimately, Himself. Some may say, God is unreasonable in His generosity but that line of thinking is incoherent with Divine Revelation.

Our following the Word of God is live the Gospel making sure the the seed sown lands on good ground. kind of ground are you?

Saint Gregory the Great taught, “Man casts seed to the ground, when he places a good intention in his heart; and he sleeps, when he already rests in the hope which attends on a good work. But he rises night and day because he advances amidst prosperity and adversity, though he knows it not for he is as yet unable to measure his increase, and yet virtue, once conceived, goes on increasing.”

Septuagesima –running the race

septuagesima 2016We see in liturgical history, the Church in France in the thirteenth century there is a change in how we live the Lex Orandi tradition with the singing of Vespers on the eve of Septuagesima Sunday, the 9th Sunday before Easter (the Byzantine Church hears the gospel of the Prodigal Son thus beginning their preparation for Great Lent). At this time we ought to notice the visual and auditory elements change: organ is silenced, the Alleluia is buried, violet is worn for priestly vesture. This verse appears:

We are unworthy to sing a ceaseless Alleluia. Our sins bid us interrupt our Alleluia. The time is at hand when it behoves us to bewail our crimes.

Read more about this pre-Lent period by Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB in his The Liturgical Year:

John Betjeman eulogized “Septuagesima” in his Poems in the Porch.

Septuagesima – seventy days
To Easter’s primrose tide of praise;
The Gesimas – Septua, Sexa, Quinc
Mean Lent is near, which makes you think.
Septuagesima – when we’re told
To “run the race”, to “keep our hold”,
Ignore injustice, not give in, and practise stern self-discipline;
A somewhat unattractive time
Which hardly lends itself to rhyme.