To Hear the Word of God: Homilies at Mass

By Gerard S. Sloyan | Go to book overview

Time of Septuagesima

SEPTUAGESIMA SUNDAY

1 COR. 9, 24-27; 10, 1-5; MT. 20, 1-16.

THE names of the next three Sundays in the Roman calendar mean, respectively, seventy, sixty, and fifty. They comprise a sort of holy count-down for Quadragesima, the forty-day time, in English, Lent. The preparation for Easter included fasting, among other things, first for one, two, and three days, then for a week, "Holy Week"; towards the fourth century the period had grown to three weeks; and by the seventh century it had become a full forty days through analogy with Christ's fast in the desert. The Sunday was always a day of celebration for Christians, never penitential, and in the Eastern Church Saturday came to be regarded as "the brother of Sunday." This means that the five-day week has a longer history than we may have imagined. Anyway, you needed to come back to the preceding Wednesday from the Sunday that falls six weeks before Easter to make forty fasting days in the West--6 × 6 + 4; and you need to come all the way back from April 18 to today this year, for example, to make forty fasting days, 8 × 5, if you stop at Palm Sunday in your reckoning, as they did in the East.

Jesus would have been impatient with all this arithmetic, one supposes; still His followers have been deep in numerological considerations from the beginning, as the men of the Bible were

-61-

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