You know I’m a Catholic, right? So you know I believe in having both/and in any given scenario, not simply choosing one or the other. Then it will be no surprise to find that I take the good stuff from both the past and the present for the good of my Domestic Church, and Septuagesima is one of those good things “out of the past.”
Almost 70 days before Easter, 9 Sundays before that most high and holy feast day, the Latin Rite has traditionally observed “Septuagesima” (meaning seventy) as a “mini-season” lasting from Septuagesima Sunday until Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. It is a serious time of preparation, getting ready for the even more serious season of Lent. During Septuagesima, which begins today, we can fruitfully begin our Lent observance and penance and fasting.
Some of you no doubt think this is utter madness. Why do we prepare for a season that is a season of preparation?
Because of Easter and Pentecost.
These two feast days are THE MOST IMPORTANT feast days in the Church, in that order. Our celebration of feast days and high holy days needs to be focused and centered around these days (not Christmas, as so many popularly believe!). And the reason for all of this is the story of our Redemption.
The symbolism inherent in the Lent and Easter seasons is representative of the significance of human life:our purpose here on earth now, and our ultimate future destiny of being with God forever in Heaven. Because of the sacredness, seriousness, and reality of these mysteries, our earthly time must be woven and textured with observation of these things that are invisible but no less real. Because the great season of Easter represents the joy and the glory of the Church when she will be united to Her Spouse for all eternity in Heaven, the seasons of Septuagesima and Lent call us to focus on our present life and its temptations and trials so that we are able to eventually make it to Heaven, through God’s Grace. During this we time we meditate how here on earth, we are like the Israelite captives in Babylon, far from our native country (Heaven) where we belong.
We Catholics are captives, exiles, and pilgrims; it is so easy to forget this. Lent is our time to remember that we are so often captive slaves to our favorite sins, and we must counteract our sinful tendencies by denying ourselves meat on Fridays and other good things throughout the season. Lent is our time to remember that through sin (original sin) the first humans lost the companionship of God that makes all of us, their descendants, de facto exiles from our intended homeland. And sin is the reason we are exiles making this difficult pilgrimage through the wasteland during our lifetime: we must fight the evil of the world, the flesh, and the Devil as we make our way towards our Heavenly home.
I love the Church, and the 2,000+ years of tradition that we have been given to help make us holy, and make our time holy. May meditating on the tradition of Septuagesima bring your Domestic Church to a deeper participation in preparation for the coming feast of Easter in nine weeks!