Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 1: Septuagesima Sunday

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite calendar, we celebrate Septuagesima Sunday. This Sunday is II Class, and the Sunday office is prayed.  At Lauds, the second Psalm scheme (Sunday at Lauds II) is used

This Sunday marks the beginning of the countdown to Quadragesima...or Lent, the great penitential season that prepares us for the commemoration of our redemption, at the price of our Lord's bitter passion and death.

Liturgically, it begins at Pretiosa today, wherein we announce at the beginning of the Martyrology:
Septuagesima Sunday -- the Sunday on which is discontinued the Canticle of the Lord -- the Alleluia.

During Septuagesima and Lent, Laus tibi, Christe replaces the Alleluia otherwise said after Deus in adjutorium meum intende…Gloria Patri, at all hours of the Office.

At 1st Vespers, the responsory is drawn from the Book of Genesis, which Holy Mother Church takes up during this remind us of our first parents fall:

Igitur perfécti sunt cæli et terra et omnis ornátus eórum:  complevítque Deus die séptimo opus suum quod fécerat: * Et requiévit Ab omni ópera quod patrárat..  Vidítque Deus cuncta quae fécerat: et errant valde bona. – Et requiévit. – Glória. – Ab omni ópera quod patrárat.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them; and on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done. * And he rested from all his work which he had done.  .  And God saw all he had done, and it was very good. – And he rested. - Glory. – From all this work which he had done.

The Magnificat antiphon, which I blogged about last year, is:

Peccáta mea, Dómine, sicut sagíttae infíxa sunt in me:  sed ántequam vúlnera génerent in me, sana me, Dómine, medicaménto pæniténtiæ, Deus. 
My sins, Lord, like arrows, are sunk deep in me.  But before they produce wounds in me, heal me, Lord God, with the antidote of repentance.

The loss of the season of Septuagesima is yet one more casualty of the liturgical changes that took place after the Second Vatican Council.  This period of preparation for Lent is of tremendous value spiritually, and it serves to drive home the importance of the coming season of Quadragesima, which it anticipates.  As Fr. Adophle Tanquerey wrote, in his masterpiece of spiritual theology:
Septuagesima is a prelude, as it were, to Lent. The Church, placing before us in the Bible lessons of the Divine Office the fall of man and the sins which followed in its wake, the deluge which came as a punishment for these sins, and the holy lives of the Patriarchs which were to expiate them, urges us to consider in the bitterness of our soul all our personal sins, to detest them sincerely and to expiate them through a whole-hearted penance. The means which the Church proposes towards this end are: i). work, or the faithful accomplishment of all our duties of state for; the love of God: "Go you also into my vineyard" Matth. 20-4, Gospel for Septuagesima Sunday; ii). struggle against the passions: in the Epistle of the Mass the Church compares us to athletes taking part in a race or a wrestling contest in order to win the prize, and- she urges us to., chastise our body even as these men do in order to bring it into subjection; iii). voluntary acceptance of sufferings and trials, our just punishment, together with a humble prayer that we may profit thereby : "The sorrows of death encompassed me... and in my affliction I called upon the Lord.”  "The Spiritual Life", p. 743-744.
The Gospel for this Sunday is the parable of the householder who hires workers for his vineyard.  The homily that the Church places before us in Matins, is that of St. Gregory the Great.  It is, in my opinion, one of the finest homilies of the Church Fathers that I have ever read.  As was his style, he treats of the Gospel from a mystical perspective, drawing multiple interpretations of who the householder represents, the meaning of the different hours that some of the laborers are chosen to work in the vineyard, etc..  He ends his interpretation with a warning that reaches through time and strikes the mind and heart today in the 21st Century, with as much force and power as it did in the late 6th Century. He closes with a story that he relates, of an event that had just recently transpired at a nearby monastery.  It is a magnificent pastoral discourse on the infinite depths of the mercy of God.  (If you have a loved one who has fallen away from the Church, as I have, whose eternal welfare you worry deeply about, I highly recommend reading this homily.)  I read this homily every year on this Sunday, or during the week that follows.  In my opinion, it is the perfect way to begin preparing for Lent.  You can download an English translation of the homily here.

A Blessed Septuagesima Season to all who read my blog.