Septuagesima Sunday

Today is Septuagesima Sunday

Septuagesima  and Lent are both times of penance, Septuagesima being a time of voluntary fasting in preparation for the obligatory Great Fast of Lent. The theme is the Babylonian exile, the “mortal coil” we must endure as we await the Heavenly Jerusalem. Sobriety and somberness reign liturgically; the Alleluia and Gloria are banished

The Sundays of Septugesima are named for their distance away from Easter:

  • The first Sunday of Septuagesima gives its name to the entire season as it is known as “Septuagesima.” “Septuagesima” means “seventy,” and Septuagesima Sunday comes roughly seventy days before Easter. This seventy represents the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity. It is on this Sunday that the alleluia is “put away,” not to be said again until the Vigil of Easter. 
  • The second Sunday of Septuagesima is known as “Sexagesima, which means “sixty”. Sexagesima Sunday comes roughly sixty days before Easter.
  • The third Sunday of Septuagesima is known as “Quinquagesima,” which means “fifty” and which comes roughly fifty days before Easter.

Quadragesima means “forty,” and this is the name of the first Sunday of Lent and the Latin name for the entire season of Lent.

Throughout this short Season and that of Lent (next Season) you will notice a deepening sense of penance and somberness, culminating in Passiontide (the last two weeks of Lent), that will suddenly and joyously end at the Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday when the alleluia returns and Christ’s Body is restored and glorified. (1)

by Leonard Goffine, 1871

Why is this Sunday called “Septuagesima”? 

Because in accordance with the words of the First Council of Orleans, some pious Christian congregations in the earliest ages of the Church, especially the clergy; began to fast seventy days before Easter, on this Sunday, which was there fore called “Septuagesima”–the seventieth day. The same is the case with the Sundays following, which are called Sexagesima, Quinquagesima, Quadragesima, because some Christians commenced to fast sixty days, others fifty, others forty days before Easter, until finally, to make it properly uniform, Popes Gregory and Gelasius arranged that all Christians should fast forty days before Easter, commencing with Ash-Wednesday.

Why, from this day until Easier, does the Church omit from her service all joyful canticles, allelujas, and the Gloria In excelsis, &c.?

To gradually prepare the minds of the faithful for the serious time of penance and sorrow, for sins committed, and for the actual fast. So the priest appears on the altar in violet, the color of penance, and half of the altar is covered with a violet curtain. To arouse our sorrow for our sins, and the need of repentance, the Church at the Introit cries, in the name of all mankind, with David: “The sorrows of death surrounded me, the sorrows of hell encompassed me. In my affliction I called upon the Lord, and He heard my voice from his holy temple.” (Ps. xvii. 5 – 9.) I will love thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, my deliverer. (Ps. xvii. 2 – 3.) Glory be to the Father, &c. (4)

by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

Jesus asks the discontented laborers: “Is thy eye evil, because I am good?” Why do they murmur? Have they been obliged to exceed the stipulated amount of labor? No! Have they worked longer than the time specified? No! Has not the master promptly paid them? Yes! Did he give them less than he promised? No! What then is the cause of their discontent? It is envy, because those who were sent later into the vineyard to work, received the same wages. 

Envy is a most dangerous, execrable yet concealed vice; a vice of which, many are guilty, but whose real wickedness few recognise. Let us employ this hour in considering its dangers. 

Mary, mother of love, pray for us, that the pestilential breath of this sin may never pollute our soul! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God! We can better recognize the turpitude and wickedness of envy, by considering the beauty, merit and amiable qualities of the opposite virtue–true, heroic brotherly love. 

The love of our neighbor for the love of God is a virtue which inspires us to love others as ourselves, to wish them all the good we wish ourselves, and to do for them all that we would do for our own interests. Of this commandment Christ says: “It is like unto the other,” namely: to the commandment of loving God, and our salvation depends on our observance of it. Thus teach Christ and His Apostles, especially St. Paul and St. John, both of whom emphatically and frequently insist upon it. 

Envy is the vice directly opposed to this commandment. This will become clear to us if we consider the teachings of St. Paul in regard to the qualities of true, active, brotherly love. “Charity,” says he, “is patient, is kind; charity envieth not, is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth: beareth all things, believeth all things” (i Cor. 13. 4). 

Let us reverse these qualities, and we have the most perfect picture of envy. Envy is not kind; on the contrary, it is cruel, selfish, and without compassion for the needs and sufferings of others. 

Envy provokes to anger, and leaves nothing untried to prevent the well-being of others. Envy seeks only its own good, and is arrogant. It thinks and does evil. 

Who can count all the vices whose source is envy? Jealousy, mistrust, calumny, deceit, enmity! Envy is easily roused to anger, and brooks little contradiction. It rejoices not at the good fortune of others, but is pleased, rather, at the contrary. Oh, how terrible a vice! it tears up by the very roots, the beautiful flower of brotherly love! 

I say, secondly, what a foolish vice! For it deserves also this stigma. Every sin bears the mark of insanity, and therefore it is that Holy Writ calls the sinner a fool. It were easy to point out the characteristics of insanity in the misdeeds of sinners, especially in the envious. 

Envy deprives man of the use of his reason, robs him of strength of mind, and exerts an evil influence on his other faculties. The possessions of his neighbor seem better than his own, for no other reason than that another and not he is the owner! 

Besides, he who is guilty of other sins has at least some satisfaction: the proud when he is honored; the miser when he counts his money and fills his coffers; the intemperate while he eats and drinks, and so of others. The envious have only the satisfaction of their anger. 

Foolish vice! It harms itself while yielding to its own indulgence What a foolish, but at the same time, what a dangerous vice! It was envy that brought sin among the angels. Lucifer and his adherents, as the Fathers of the Church teach us, envied the glory of Christ, Who in His human nature stood below them, but Whom they were commanded to glorify and worship on account of the hypostatic union with the person of the Son of God. 

As regards man, Holy Writ teaches us that it was through the envy of Satan that sin entered paradise. The envy of the serpent would deprive the human race not only of paradise but also of heaven. It has cast upon us innumerable woes, and has exposed us to countless dangers in working out the salvation of our soul. Satan envied mankind who were destined to take the place of the fallen angels in heaven. 

Woe to us if we ever hearken to the voice of envy! Satan will then find it easy to assail us with temptations of all kinds! The first born of men became a murderer on account of envy. It was envy that induced Cain to kill Abel. It was envy that nailed the Redeemer of mankind to the cross. 

It is true that pride introduced heresy into the world, and thus corrupted countless souls and wrought their eternal ruin; but envy is the twin-brother of pride, the second poisonous fang of the serpent of hell. Not seldom has its influence been felt since the origin and dissemination of heresy, especially since the last and most pernicious of all, namely, Protestantism. 

Pride mated with envy has given birth in our own day to the heresy whose followers style themselves the Old Catholics. Yet more lamentable is the fact that envy, even among the good, has succeeded in preventing much that otherwise would have been done for the salvation of souls and the welfare of the Church, thus effecting incalculable mischief in every age of the Christian era. 

It is envy that lights the torch of war among nations, and destroys the peace and happiness of congregations and home circles. Yere there no envy among mortals earth would become a paradise. Envy were capable of changing even heaven into a place of torment, and for this reason it is, as Gregory the Great says, “The mark of the damned.” 

The condition of the envious is the more dangerous, because the poison of envy is concealed. How few think themselves guilty of this sin! how few accuse themselves of it, and endeavor to uproot it from their hearts with the determination of St. Francis of Sales, who says: “Did I know that a fibre of envy were beating in my heart, I would tear it out!” 

Follow his example, cost what it may, and instead of that detestable parasite, guard deep within your heart the holy virtue of heroic brotherly love! Amen! 

“Why stand you here all the day idle?”–Matt. 20. 

The reproach which Christ in today’s Gospel addresses to those who remained idle until the eleventh hour, is unfortunately one which might he addressed to the greater portion of mankind, yes even to many of the children of the Church. 

We usually live careless of eternity, seemingly forgetful why we are here upon earth, and that this life was not given us to seek the honors, joys and treasures of this world, but to gather merit for eternity. How many men, how many children even of the Church are idle in this regard! 

Let us earnestly take to heart this reproach, at once so true so important, so salutary for time and eternity, and endeavor to purchase back the hours we lost in idleness, and to employ with the zeal of the saints the days still left to us. 

Mary, thou faithful handmaid of the Lord, pray for us that, following thy example, we may employ our entire life in gaining our salvation through Jesus Christ our Redeemer! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God! 

“Why stand you here all the day idle?” What an astonishing, incomprehensible, and yet only too true fact! This becomes clear to us if we consider the character of our life upon earth, and the relation in which it stands to eternity. Our life here below is the time which God gives us to prepare ourselves for the world to come. 

If we reflect how precious time is, how short and how uncertain are the days of our life, we certainly would expect man to think of nothing else, than how to employ the days of his life in securely reaching that end for which life was given. 

A crown, a high degree of glory, is the recompense for every moment well employed. St. Chrysostom was right when he exclaimed: “Time, thou art worth as much as God!” But time is so short; for what is the longest life compared to eternity? In addition to this, not one moment of this short time is certain. How often death surprises man, and then his precious time is gone, never to return. Man knows this, the Christian believes it; therefore how incomprehensible their neglect to employ their time after the zealous earnestness of the saints! This becomes still more incomprehensible, when we consider how provident man is of his time in regard to temporal affairs and the acquisition of earthly goods. They hesitate not to cross the ocean in the often disappointed hope of securing employment and gaining money, while, if they only seize the opportunity, they will never lack profitable labor in the grand affair of their salvation. 

And yet how many lose and kill time! I wish to call your attention to the following classes of idlers:

The first are those who lose their time from sheer indolence. They are those drones, who do their duty neither as citizens nor as Christians. They dream away their time, and awake when it is too late, to the grand reality of life. They want self-abnegation. These . especially deserve the reproach: “Why stand you here idle?”

The second class are those who idle away their time by excessive labor, not for the salvation of their soul but through an inordinate care for the things of this world. I call them industrious idlers. Apparently they are occupied, but in reality they do nothing, since they are busy only for this fleeting world and not for eternity. They think themselves, however, much wiser than those who fail to accumulate an equal amount of temporal wealth. But all their labor, all their success is of no value towards their eternal welfare; indeed, as far as this is concerned they might better, perhaps, have remained as idle as the former. For, in their eagerness to gain temporal goods, they may have yielded to temptation and then, being in the state of sin, gained nothing even when they seemed to be laboring for heaven. These are the industrious idlers who, in the words of Holy Writ, exclaim when it is too late: “We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity” and of temporal care. 

There are others who, though they live in the state of grace, may yet be said to lose the time which has been granted to them to work out their salvation. To this third class of idlers belong those who lose their time in vain conversations and idle gossiping. Oh, how many apparently pious souls belong to this class of idlers! They talk ten, nay a hundred times too much. Even in necessary business how many useless words are spoken, how many moments wasted in idleness! Instead of leaving after having obtained the desired information, we remain and continue conversing about the same affair, though we previously stated all that was necessary; and in this manner we lose the time we should give to work. 

But how shall we designate the many idlers who lose their time by too frequent visits and by prolonging this useless and sometimes dangerous pastime, till late in the night? Instead of regulating our visits by the just demands of friendship or of Christian neighborly love, we seek only to enjoy the society and conversation of others, forgetting that we could employ our time much better in sanctifying ourselves and others by works of charity. 

Lastly, what shall we say of the idleness of pleasure-seekers, of those who pass day and night in gambling, dancing and other worldly amusements? How much time is lost for eternity in this manner! How much in visiting watering places, frequenting theatres and balls! There is also a certain class of people who lose their time in travelling for the sake of pleasure. I call these travelling idlers. 

To all these we must needs add the large number of drunkards who, in their revels, heed not quickly passing time, and employ it neither for their temporal nor spiritual welfare who squander their money, impoverish their families and not unfrequently end their days in the almshouse. What a despicable class of idlers! 

In conclusion, let me mention those who are idlers on account of negligence in renewing their good intention. The good we do, must be done with the right intention, that is, for God’s sake and for His sake only. Of course this does not mean that a Christian may not transact business or perform this or that work for the sake of gain, friendship or neighborly love, as our circumstances in life make necessary; only let these good and praiseworthy intentions be secondary to the one just mentioned. 

Christian, lay your hand upon your heart and tell me, if you do not belong to one of these classes of idlers, or perhaps to all of them? Make now the firm resolution of profiting well by the time yet left to you that, one day in the kingdom of eternal life, God may assign to you your reward! Amen! (5)

Research by REGINA Staff

Sign up for REGINA's weekly newsletter

  1. You will usually hear from us about once a week, usually on Sunday. 
  2. At other times, we may send a special email. 

To subscribe, go here!