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The Arma Christi of John de Campeden, Hospital of Saint Cross, Winchester

As we have already seen, Divine Worship: The Missal, and the calendars of the three personal ordinariates, maintains the pre-Lent season common to the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican missals. This season is characterized by a certain liturgical penitence (as opposed to fasting and abstinence). In this first of three posts, we will examine the Sundays of the pre-Lent season, or Septuagesimatide, as they appear in Divine Worship: The Missal. 

The first Sunday of the pre-Lent season is Septuagesima. This marks seventy days before the celebration of Easter, and as the first day of the season it offers certain insights common to the other days and weeks. First, we notice that the church and her ministers are dressed in violet. This external sign reminds us that, in a certain sense, the Church has begun to “breath in,” in preparation for the great exultation of Easter. That great shout of praise at the resurrection of the Lord, and his victory over sin and death—the litany of alleluias that mark the Paschal season—is thus cut short when, from after Evening Prayer on the eve of Septuagesima Sunday, the Church abstains from “Alleluia” and the Gloria in excelsis, replacing the chant before the Gospel with a Tract.

In Divine Worship: The Missal we find the propers and orations common to the pre-conciliar Missale Romanum. The translation of the Introit, Circumdederunt me, comes from the 1906 English Hymnal, and the other propers draw on the translations found in the Anglican Missal (Gavin, 1961) and the various editions of the English Missal. The Collect, common to the pre-conciliar Missale Romanum, is identical to that found in the Book of Common Prayer, and also in the Anglican missals. Distinctively, as we mentioned in an earlier post on the character of this season in Divine Worship, the Preface is the Preface of Pre-Lent and Lent, drawn from Rite One of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in the United States, and subsequently the Book of Divine Worship.

John Betjeman recalled Septuagesima in one of his “Poems in the Porch,” handsomely illustrated by John Piper in the 1950s. The poem was recited by the Prince of Wales to mark National Poetry Day in 2007, and it seems fitting to reproduce a little of the poem:

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.

Please do not reproduce this text elsewhere without permission of the author.