Today is called Septuagesima Sunday. Septuagesima Sunday is the third Sunday before the start of Lent, which makes it the ninth Sunday before Easter. Traditionally, Septuagesima Sunday marked the beginning of preparations for Lent. No one is quite sure why Septuagesima Sunday bears that name. Literally, Septuagesima means “seventieth” in Latin, but contrary to common error, it is not 70 days before Easter, but only 63. The most likely explanation is that Septuagesima Sunday and Sexagesima Sunday simply derived their names from Quinqagesima Sunday, which is 49 days before Easter, or 50 if you include Easter. (Quinqagesima means “fiftieth”). The 17-day period beginning on Septuagesima Sunday was intended to be observed as a preparation for the season of Lent, which is itself a period of spiritual preparation (for Easter). In an old devotional book, published by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, the following beautiful meditation is provided.
The Way of the Cross leads to Calvary; the seasons of Septuagesima and Lent lead to Good Friday. Our ways of penance leads to crucifixion of sin and sacrifice of self. But the darkness of Good Friday eventuates in the glorious light of Easter; crucifixion paves the way for resurrection. Our oblation of self-life will bring us the new Christ-life. The Mystical Body of Christ now prepares to walk the Way of the Cross, ascend the Mount of Calvary, share in sacrificial suffering.
We prepare our oblation of self in union with the self-oblation of Our Lord, Who is our strength and our Deliverer. We will share the “prize” won by Him if we “so run as to obtain it”. Our participation in the Sacred Liturgy, which makes effective all that it portrays, will powerfully assist us to live the Christian life and perform the work of Christ. We Catholics are God’s laborers, doing for souls the work which He gives us.
Saint Paul calls us “slaves of Christ”. As in the material life some servants work harder and longer than others, so in the spiritual life the labor of one “slave” will be more arduous than that of another, but the generosity of God rewards each servant justly. The reward is eternal, heavenly life, a foretaste of which is received in the heavenly, life-imparting Gift of the Holy Eucharist. The liturgy is Christ active in the work of prayer; our offering of the Liturgy is made effective by the intercessory power of Jesus Christ, working in and through us, His mystical members. (“My Daily Prayer”, Confraternity of the Precious Blood, 1955).