Septuagesima

It seems hardly any time since we were in Advent, and already we “bury” the Alleluia and the Gloria in excelsis (at least in the Use of Sarum). The Roman rite uses violet for the liturgical colour. Sarum tended to use blue for Advent and Ash or unbleached colour for Lent. It is not very clear what is used for the Gesima season, naturally before Quadragesima which is of course Lent itself. From what I have been able to gather, violet was not unknown in pre-Reformation England like the French style fiddleback chasubles, which might be surprising to some.

There are various customs of “burying” the Alleluia. Some parishes get the children to write the word Alleluia on a piece of paper and put it in a box. I sing Ite Missa est with the double Alleluia at the Mass of this Saturday, as on Holy Saturday, which this year is the feast of St Polycarp (Roman rite) or Our Lady’s Saturday in the Sarum Use (no feast). We might as well enjoy it as it will be more than two months until Easter!

Here is a poem by Sir John Betjeman which was recited some years ago by Prince Charles on the occasion of National Poetry Day. Daily Telegraph article.

Septuagesima – seventy days
To Easter’s primrose tide of praise;
The Gesimas – Septua, Sexa, Quinc
Mean Lent is near, which makes you think.
Septuagesima – when we’re told
To “run the race”, to “keep our hold”,
Ignore injustice, not give in, and practise stern self-discipline;
A somewhat unattractive time
Which hardly lends itself to rhyme.
But still it gives the chance to me
To praise our dear old C. of E.
So other Churches please forgive
Lines on the Church in which I live,
The Church of England of my birth,
The kindest Church to me on earth.
There may be those who like things fully
Argued out, and call you “woolly”;
Ignoring Creeds and Catechism
They say the C. of E.’s “in schism”.
There may be those who much resent
Priest, Liturgy, and Sacrament,
Whose worship is what they call “free”,
Well, let them be so, but for me
There’s refuge in the C. of E.
And when it comes that I must die
I hope the Vicar’s standing by,
I won’t care if he’s “Low” or “High”
For he’ll be there to aid my soul
On that dread journey to its goal,
With Sacrament and prayer and Blessing
After I’ve done my last confessing.
And at that time may I receive
The Grace most firmly to believe,
For if the Christian’s Faith’s untrue
What is the point of me and you?
But this is all anticipating
Septuagesima – time of waiting,
Running the race or holding fast.
Let’s praise the man who goes to light
The church stove on an icy night.
Let’s praise that hard-worked he or she
The Treasurer of the P.C.C.
Let’s praise the cleaner of the aisles,
The nave and candlesticks and tiles.
Let’s praise the organist who tries
To make the choir increase in size,
Or if that simply cannot be,
Just to improve its quality.
Let’s praise the ringers in the tower
Who come to ring in cold and shower.
But most of all let’s praise the few
Who are seen in their accustomed pew
Throughout the year, whate’er the weather,
That they may worship God together.
These, like a fire of glowing coals,
Strike warmth into each other’s souls,
And though they be but two or three
They keep the Church for you and me.

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2 Responses to Septuagesima

  1. Michael Frost says:

    Unfortunately for Christendom…we EO won’t be celebrating this until March 3rd and our Western Rite Lent starts March 20, Pascha on May 5th. (At least we get heavily discounted Pascha chocolates and other goodies. Who doesn’t like really inexpensive Cadbury eggs?)

  2. Alan Robinson says:

    As Betjeman once wrote:
    His kingdom stretch from See to See
    Till all the world is C of E (goes to the tune of Jesus Shall Reign where’r the sun)

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