The BCP

Septuagesima

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

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 our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Collect Commentary

Introduction to Septuagesima

As the Church moves through the Christian Year from Epiphany to Lent she passes through three Sundays which have to modern ears strange titles. Septuagesima, Sexagesima & Quinquagesima are in fact three Latin words and they indicate how far away we are from Easter - that is, 70, 60 & 50 days respectively. From the fifth century after Christ these Sundays emerged as a preparatory cycle for Lent in the West.

The Latin names arose by analogy with Quadragesima, the first Sunday in Lent, known as the "fortieth day" before Easter. Quinquagesima is exactly fifty days before Easter but Sexagesima (60) and Septuagesima (70) are only approximations.

In Rome and the West, Septuagesima (the 70th) day before Easter was regarded as the beginning of the preparation for Easter and thus it was natural to attract to itself the theme of The Beginning, that is the Creation of the world by the Father through the Son and with the Holy Ghost. (Thus there began the reading of Genesis on this day in the monastic Daily Offices.)

In the Church of the East in the Byzantine tradition there also emerged a cycle of preparation before Lent proper, with the last two Sundays being known as "Meatfare" and "Cheesefare" Sundays. There is partial fasting between these two Sundays and then Lent begins on the Monday which is known as "Clean Monday," with no meat or cheese.

In the West, in the modern post 1960s Roman Catholic and Anglican Prayer Books, the "Gesimas" have been abolished. However, they remain part of the Christian Year in The Book of Common Prayer. They serve to place worshippers today in a long tradition of regarding Lent to be so important as a preparation for Easter, the Feast of Feasts, as to require for itself a preliminary preparation. So the "Gesimas" are a preparation for the Preparation.

The Collect for Septuagesima which begins the short cycle anticipates two chief ideas of Lent - the confession of our sin and its just punishment, and the prayer for forgiveness from God's mercy in Jesus Christ. Thus in these three weeks the faithful begin to turn their minds to Lent, its solemnity and how they will keep it, in joining with their Lord in his fasting, meditating, praying and resisting temptation in the wilderness. ===========================================================

SEPTUAGESIMA or The Third Sunday before Lent

The Collect

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 our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

This week the Church in the West has traditionally begun her initial preparation for Lent. In this period of three Sundays and eighteen days until Ash Wednesday the Church as a whole and each member in particular are given the opportunity to work out the approach to Lent and the discipline to be followed in Lent. The Gospel through a parable of Jesus declares that God is debtor to no man and that everything he gives us is of his amazing grace. In contrast the Epistle urges us to give ourselves wholly to the service of God and to dedicate ourselves totally to his kingdom.

The spiritual tone that this Collect calls for and presents is one of penitence and humility before the all-seeing, all-knowing, wholly just and yet wholly merciful God, the Father of Jesus Christ. Our sins represent disobedience to him as the Law-giver, rebellion against him as the Master, pride before him as the Holy Lord, and irreverence before him as the universal Judge.

Yet, after self-examination, with repentant hearts and penitent souls, and looking unto Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son and Mediator between God and man, we can and must place ourselves before him, casting ourselves upon his goodness and mercy, made known unto us in the same Lord Jesus Christ. This is the spirit that will be deepened and extended during Lent, as we seek to draw near to God the Father through the sole merits and mediation of his Son.

The key verb is this Petition is "delivered", that we may be mercifully delivered or liberated from the captivity and bondage of sin, by which we are tied as with chains that we cannot break.

Happily, the emphasis upon our sinfulness is matched in this Collect by the full emphasis upon the mediation of the Son, who in the final words, we recall and recognize is truly exalted to the Father's right hand in glory to reign there as the King of kings and to be unto us the exalted Prophet, Priest and King. In fact the Collect ends with the glorifying of the Blessed Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

 

Epistle 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27

KNOW ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things: now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.

 

Gospel St Matthew 20:1-16

THE kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the market-place, and said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.