The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Septuagesima and the Grinch

Canisius | 28 February, 2006 23:38

A reader writes:

I've been enjoying your liturgical reflections and have a quick question about Septuagesima Sunday. On the old calendar, did it occur without fail two and a half weeks before Ash Wednesday, no matter how early Lent begins? Suppose Lent were especially early and Septuagesima Sunday took place before February 2, which I understand was the old end of the Christmas season. Did the Septuagesima season begin at times before February 2, effectively ending the Christmas season early?

I don't have any special expertise in liturgy, but I can pass on what Gueranger says. In IV, 6 he remarks:

"As the season of Septuagesima depends upon the time of the Easter celebration, it comes sooner or later according to the changes of that great feast. January 18 and February 22 are called the 'Septuagesima keys,' because the Sunday, which is called Septuagesima, cannot be earlier in the year than the first, nor later than the second, of these two days."

In III, 13, he says:

"During the remaining twenty days [after the octave of Epiphany but within the Christmas season], the Church vests in accordance with the Feast she keeps.... On the Sundays which come during this time--unless there occur a Feast requiring red or white, or, unless Septuagesima has begun its three mournful weeks of preparation for Lent--the colour of the Vestments is green."

So it appears that the answers to your questions are: Yes, Septuagesima Sunday always falls the same number of days before Ash Wednesday; and yes, this sometimes cut short the liturgical observance of the Christmas season. I don't know any more details than appear in the two quotations given above, unfortunately.

One side note: I have begun to grow careful about referring to "the old calendar". Dom Gueranger reports numerous liturgical changes over the years, and after his time still more were made before Vatican II--some of them rather dramatic, like dropping all octaves from the calendar except those of Christmas and Easter. The liturgical calendar before Vatican II was not as fixed as I had once supposed.


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