Septuagesima

To my mind one of the most joyous things about the Ordinariate liturgy is the restoration of the Gesimas.

I can already see several people of my acquaintance rolling their eyes and murmuring “Young Fogey”, but I feel justified in a love for this mysterious and strange time of year: not quite Lent, but not Ordinary Time either. John Betjeman puts it well (as always):

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.

And not exactly to reason either: Septuagesima is not 70 days until Easter, but 63. Dom Prosper Gueranger in his mighty work “The Liturgical Year” suggests that the numbering is due to the biblical practice of rounding numbers up (e.g. 40 days), rather than using specifics. He also suggests that a pre-Lenten season originates with the Greeks.

It is there, I feel, to give something of a “run up”to the great season, just as one wouldn’t go into a physical desert without some form of preparation, so it would seem to be sensible not to go into the spiritual desert of Lent without something similar. A warning system if you like: “T-minus 70 days…”. Forewarned is forearmed.

Betjeman is, of course, an important part of “The Patrimony”, and gives a lovely appreciation at the end Septuagesima of those who so tirelessly work to maintain churches; many of whom have found a home in the Ordinariate:

But this is all anticipating
Septuagesima – time of waiting,
Running the race or holding fast.
Let’s praise the man who goes to light
The church stove on an icy night.
Let’s praise that hard-worked he or she
The Treasurer of the P.C.C.
Let’s praise the cleaner of the aisles,
The nave and candlesticks and tiles.
Let’s praise the organist who tries
To make the choir increase in size,
Or if that simply cannot be,
Just to improve its quality.
Let’s praise the ringers in the tower
Who come to ring in cold and shower.
But most of all let’s praise the few
Who are seen in their accustomed pew
Throughout the year, whate’er the weather,
That they may worship God together.
These, like a fire of glowing coals,
Strike warmth into each other’s souls,
And though they be but two or three
They keep the Church for you and me.

 

Posted in Patrimony

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