Septuagesima

From Academic Kids

Septuagesima (in full, Septuagesima Sunday) is the name formerly given to the third from the last Sunday before Lent in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. The term was also sometimes applied to the period of the liturgical year which began on this day and lasted through Shrove Tuesday (with the following day being Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins). This period was also known as Shrovetide. The next two Sundays were labelled Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, the latter sometimes also called Shrove Sunday.

Septuagesima comes from the Latin word for "seventieth," with Sexagesima and Quinquagesima equalling "sixtieth" and "fiftieth" respectively. The most logical explanation for the use of these terms is that they denote the approximate number of days between each and Easter (the actual respective numbers being 63, 56 and 49). Some have theorized, however, that Septuagesima may have been added to the liturgical calendar to commemorate the Babylonian Captivity, which lasted 70 years (there is evidence that some early Christians began fasting 70 days before Easter, but whether that custom originated from this is not entirely clear). At any rate, the 17-day period beginning on Septuagesima Sunday was intended to be observed as a preparation for the season of Lent, which of course is itself a period of spiritual preparation (for Easter); in many countries, however, Septuagesima Sunday marked the traditional start of the carnival season, culminating on Shrove Tuesday, reckoned as Mardi Gras in many places (most notably New Orleans).

In the Roman Catholic liturgy, the Alleluia ceased to be said during Mass on Septuagesima Sunday, not to be reinserted until Easter; the Old Testament reading authorized for the day was taken from Genesis and focused on Adam's fall and resulting expulsion from the Garden of Eden, while the Gospel reading contained the parable of the Prodigal Son. The day also began a period when the sacrament of matrimony could not be solemnized, this prohibition lasting until Low Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter (the Anglican churches also enforced this dictum, but both polities abolished most restrictions on conducting marriages during this and certain other seasons of the liturgical year in the 1970s).

Pursuant to the terms of the new liturgical calendar adopted by the Second Vatican Council, Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays were dropped from the calendar and the period encompassing them was added to the installment of Ordinary Time after Epiphany. The change took effect in 1970; six years later the Anglican Churches (such as the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United States) followed suit, henceforth counting these Sundays as the last three "Sundays after Epiphany." A version of the season still does exist in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, and is known as Triódion (although it is only 15 days long and not 17 since the Eastern Orthodox Lent commences on a Monday instead of a Wednesday).

Purple vestments were worn during the period from Septuagesima Sunday through Shrove Tuesday until the aforementioned calendar reform took place; now green is used, as in the rest of Ordinary Time which the change made it a part.

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