Septuagesima Sunday

Laudetur Iesus Christus! Sunday begins the three week pre-Lent season of Septuagesima, which roughly means 70 days before Easter. We will have more on this season below, but as custom, Dr. Mike Foley provides commentary on the Collect for Sunday’s Latin Mass:

Bring in Old Palms

As mentioned in St. Ann’s Friday Five, the parish has a basket in the narthex for old palms where you can drop off your old palms from last year (they will be used for ashes on Ash Wednesday).

An Enclosed Garden of God: The Joyful Mystery of a Traditional Carmelite Monastery

In one of the most moving and powerful videos on the Latin Mass and tradition we can recommend this year, comes a documentary on the spiritual life of the traditional Carmelite sisters in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  As CLMC readers may recall, these nuns are pushing back against machinations from certain Church leaders to extinguish their contemplative charism founded by St. Theresa of Avila. The documentary is an hour, but well worth the time as it explains their charism, their daily routine, and features interviews with their bishop, priests, former novices, and families of the nuns. As one supporter says, these nuns are “the Navy Seals of religious communities!”.  After watching, we think you’ll agree.  Please keep them in your prayers, and consider supporting them if possible (

CLMC comment: Let us also consider pray for dioceses such as ours which are vulnerable to spiritual attacks without having the presence of the “heavyweights” of religious life – contemplative religious orders – who pray and fast daily, according to the traditional charism. Any diocese would benefit much, both spiritually and civically, from the presence of similar communities. As Our Lord said, “this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20)

Latin Mass & Traditional News

The Season of Septuagesima

For those new to the Traditional Latin Mass, a pre-Lent season may sound foreign as it does not exist in the Novus Ordo. Yet as the great 19th century Benedictine liturgist, Dom Prosper Gueranger writes in The Liturgical Year, a pre-Lent season is absolutely necessary to prepare for one of the principal seasons of the year, Lent. We share some reflections of this season beginning with the suspension of the Alleluia which occurs on the Saturday prior to Septuagesima, and provides a subtle transition between Christmastide and Lent:

Suspension of the Alleluia

Our holy mother the Church knows how necessary it is for her to rouse our hearts from their lethargy, and give them an active tendency towards the things of God. On this day, the eve of Septuagesima, she uses a powerful means for infusing her own spirit into the minds of her children. She takes the song of heaven away from us: she forbids our further uttering that Alleluia, which is so dear to us, as giving us a fellowship with the choirs of angels, who are forever repeating it. How is it that we poor mortals, sinners, and exiles on earth, have dared to become so familiar with this hymn of a better land? It is true, our Emmanuel, who established peace between God and men, brought it us from heaven on the glad night of His Birth; and we have had the courage to repeat it after the angels, and shall chant it with renewed enthusiasm when we reach our Easter. But to sing the Alleluia worthily, we must have our hearts set on the country whence it came. It is not a mere word, nor a profane unmeaning melody; it is the song that recalls the land we are banished from, it is the sweet sigh of the soul longing to be at home.

Septuagesima Sunday

Gueranger continues with a helpful explanation of today which begins this preparatory season of penance and prayer.

The Season of Septuagesima comprises the three weeks immediately preceding Lent. It forms one of the principal divisions of the Liturgical Year, and is itself divided into three parts, each part corresponding to a week: the first is called Septuagesima; the second, Sexagesima; the third, Quinquagesima.

All three are named from their numerical reference to Lent, which, in the language of the Church, is called Quadragesima, — that is, Forty, — because the great Feast of Easter is prepared for by the holy exercises of Forty Days. The words Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, and Septuagesima, tell us of the same great Solemnity as looming in the distance, and as being the great object towards which the Church would have us now begin to turn all our thoughts, and desires, and devotion.

Now, the Feast of Easter must be prepared for by a forty-days’ recollectedness and penance. Those forty-days are one of the principal Seasons of the Liturgical Year, and one of the most powerful means employed by the Church for exciting in the hearts of her children the spirit of their Christian Vocation. It is of the utmost importance, that such a Season of grace should produce its work in our souls, — the renovation of the whole spiritual life. The Church, therefore, has instituted a preparation for the holy time of Lent. She gives us the three weeks of Septuagesima, during which she withdraws us, as much as may be, from the noisy distractions of the world, in order that our hearts may be the more readily impressed by the solemn warning she is to give us, at the commencement of Lent, by marking our foreheads with ashes.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Last Wednesday February 9 was the feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria, the 5th century bishop and patriarch of Alexandria (and doctor). He was most famous for combating the heretic patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius. It was unusual for a bishop to be proclaiming heresy (particularly involving the Blessed Mother and the Incarnation), but St. Cyril was appointed the task to combat this Nestorian heresy and to try and bring this heretic back into the Church. Dom Gueranger notes in The Liturgical Year some helpful reflections (emphasis ours):

When the shepherd becomes a wolf, the first duty of the flock is to defend itself. It is usual and regular, no doubt, for doctrine to descend from the bishops to the faithful, and those who are subject in the faith are not to judge their superiors. But in the treasure of revelation there are essential doctrines which all Christians, by the very fact of their title as such, are bound to know and defend. The principle is the same whether it be a question of belief or conduct, dogma or morals. Treachery like that of Nestorius is rare in the Church, but it may happen that some pastors keep silence for one reason or another in circumstances when religion itself is at stake. The true children of Holy Church at such times are those who walk by the light of their baptism, not the cowardly souls who, under the specious pretext of submission to the powers that be, delay their opposition to the enemy in the hope of receiving instructions which are neither necessary nor desirable.

The Patriarch of Alexandria could not rest content with opening his heart to those of whose sympathy he was assured. He strove to win back Nestorius by letters, in which his personal meekness is only rivalled by the vigour and breadth of his doctrine. But Nestorius was obdurate. Having no arguments at his command, he complained of the Patriarch’s interference. As it always happens, there were pacifists who, though not sharing Nestorius’ errors, thought it would be best not to answer him for fear of embittering him, increasing the scandal, and wounding charity…

…Men of this type, also represented in all ages, revealed the true motive of their hesitation when, after insisting on the advantages of peace and their ancient friendship with Nestorius, they suggested timidly that it would be dangerous to oppose so powerful an adversary. ‘Could I but satisfy the Bishop of Constantinople and heal the wounded spirit of my brother by suffering the loss of all my possessions!’ was Cyril’s reply. ‘But the faith is at stake. The scandal has spread through the Church, and all men are inquiring about the new doctrine. If we, who have received from God the office of teacher, fail to remedy such great evils, will there be flames enough for us at the Day of Judgment? I have already been struck by insult and calumny—let it pass. If only the faith be safe, I will yield to none in my love of Nestorius.

When the combat became inevitable, he organized the forces of the Church, and summoned monks and Bishops to his side. He did not attempt to conceal the holy enthusiasm which filled his heart. ‘As far as I am concerned,’ he writes to the clerics who represent him in the imperial city, ‘my greatest desire is to suffer, live and die for the faith of Jesus Christ. As it is written: “If I shall give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids, or rest to my temples”[7] until I have fought the battle which is necessary for the well-being of all. Therefore let your hearts be full of the same spirit and do manfully. Watch the enemy and inform us of his slightest movements. As soon as I can, I will send you some Bishops and monks, pious and prudent men, chosen out of many. I am already preparing my letters. I have resolved to labour without truce for the faith of Christ and to suffer all torments, yea death itself, which in such a cause would be sweet to me.'[8]

In the fifth century, the Blessed Mother’s title as Mary, the Mother of God, came under attack, but was swiftly defended by St. Cyril of Alexandria. Today the Traditional Latin Mass is under attack across the world and is need of defense. What Mass are you attending Sunday?

St. Cyril of Alexandria and Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!