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The Cathedral Church of Saint Patrick, New York City, NY

The Sunday next before Lent, or Quinquagesima, is celebrated at the start of the week in which the Church keeps Ash Wednesday, and so begins her fasting preparation for Easter. Although the Eastern Churches mark this Sunday by further abstaining from dairy, in the Latin Church the character of the pre-Lent season continues to be articulated by a purely liturgical penitence. Due to this, the days that follow Quinquagesima are associated with celebrations such as Mardi Gras—the last moments of celebration before the rigours of Lent properly ensue. In England, particularly in the north, the Monday following Quinquagesima has historically been referred to as Collop Monday, because it saw the eating-up of leftover slices of meat, particularly bacon. The following day continues to be known as Shrove Tuesday, and aside from the eating of pancakes—a further means of enjoying the last moments before Ash Wednesday—the day is set aside for the practice of confession (shriving) before the start of Lent. In a sermon for Quinquagesima, Ælfric of Eynsham encourages his people in this practice, saying: “Now a pure and holy time draws near, in which we should atone for our neglect. Every Christian, therefore, should come to his confession and confess his hidden sins, and amend according to the guidance of his teacher.” 

To maintain the sacred character, Saint Charles Borromeo and Cardinal Lambertini, later Pope Benedict XIV (†1758), encouraged devotions before the Blessed Sacrament during this time. After Lambertini’s election to the papacy, these devotions increased in popularity such that Pope Clement XIII (†1769) extended the devotion, now known as the Forty Hours, to the whole Church in 1765.

Divine Worship: The Missal maintains the general liturgical character of the pre-Lent season common to the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican missals, and drawn from the pre-conciliar Missale Romanum. The propers and orations are, on the whole, identical to those in the 1570 Missale Romanum. Where Divine Worship diverges from this practice, however, is by the inclusion of the Collect for Quinquagesima first found in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, and later employed in the various Anglican missals. This was a new composition for the Edwardian Prayer Book, based on the Epistle for Quinquagesima (1 Cor. 13: 1-13). The Collect of the pre-conciliar Missale Romanum speaks of the practice of penance, appropriate for the coming days, in this way: “O Lord, we beseech thee favourably to hear our prayers, and having loosed us by absolution from the bonds of sins, defend us from all adversity.” This is replaced by a composition drawn directly from the scripture appointed for the day (though not, as it happens, according to the three year lectionary).

The three collects of pre-Lent thus demonstrate in microcosm, something of the Anglican liturgical patrimony as it is found in Divine Worship: The Missal. Septuagesima reproduces the Collect of the Missale Romanum, Sexagesima provides an altered version of the ancient Collect for the day, and Quinquagesima offers a new composition, which is unique to the Anglican tradition.

This post is part of series on the Sundays of Pre-Lent. You can read an overview on Pre-Lent in Divine Worship here, an article on Septuagesima here, and an article on Sexagesima here.

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