‘To effect a transition from the joyous spirit of Christmas time to the sober and serious character of Lent, the Church has inserted a period of mental conditioning before Ash Wednesday, Pre-Lent, as this period may be called, consists of three Sundays, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima, i.e., the seventieth, the sixtieth, and the fiftieth day before Easter. These numbers do not, of course, result from accurate calculation, but because the first Sunday in Lent was called Quadragesima the three previous Sundays received the name of the nearest round figure… These three Sundays may be regarded as a prelude to the entire Easter season.
The liturgy of Pre-Lent with its magnificently constructed Mass formularies dates from the time of Pope St Gregory the Great; perhaps the saint himself was responsible for their composition. In content they reflect the period of the migration of nations, an age of war, tumult, and suffering’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Father Parsch reflects on the image (above): ‘The design attempts to illustrate Septuagesima’s leading themes. At the bottom we see what happened in paradise: our first parents are driven from the garden by the cherub with flaming sword. Behind them remain the tree of life and the lily of innocence. In their path are thorns and thistles, and beside them a hissing serpent. But there is still room for hope – already the Sun of redemption shines from afar. In the centre picture our heavenly Father is inviting all of us into His vineyard. At top the station saint, Lawrence, encourages us to fight the holy battle for the good of God’s kingdom by waving to us with crown and palm’.
Fr Lee Kenyon