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From the Gelasian Sacramentary (7th Century) until the calendar reforms of Vatican II, the ninth Sunday before Easter was called “Septuagesima”. What interests me is that, prior to the Vatican II reforms from Septuagesima right through up to (but not including) the Last Sunday after Pentecost (the Sunday next before Advent) – that whole block of at least 40 Sundays in the church year (I think I’ve got that right!) were linked and moved with the date of Easter. And underneath and behind that this block of at least 40 Sundays with their set collect, introit, readings etc. were, hence, linked to the Jewish calendar. I would be fascinated to explore if and how readings and the collects etc. related to any Jewish festivals, readings, etc. If you know of any websites and/or books that explore this – please contact me (or place your information in the comments box. I will choose to publish from what is sent here. Do not send anonymous comments.)

Traditionalist Catholics and Lutherans continue this sequence. Clearly it is not 70 days until Easter – but some suggest this commemorates the 70 years in Babylonian exile. Others highlight that there is always enough room, even with a moving Easter date, to have Septuagesima after Epiphany. Traditionally “Alleluia” stopped at Compline the night prior to Septuagesima, and violet vestments are begun to be worn. Eastern Orthodox call this the Sunday of the Prodigal and read that story from Luke 15 this day. In French churches they sang the (10th or 11th century anonymously-authored) hymn “Alleluia, dulce carmen”. This was well-known among Anglo-Saxons:


1. Alleluia dulce carmen,
Vox perennis gaudii,
Alleluia laus suavis
Est choris coelestibus,
Quam canunt Dei manentes
In domo per saecula.

2. Alleluia laeta mater
Concivis Jerusalem:
Alleluia vox tuorum
Civium gaudentium:
Exsules nos flere cogunt
Babylonis flumina.

3. Alleluia non meremur
In perenne psallere;
Alleluia vo reatus
Cogit intermittere;
Tempus instat quo peracta
Lugeamus crimina.

4. Unde laudando precamur
Te beata Trinitas,
Ut tuum nobis videre
Pascha des in aethere,
Quo tibi laeti canamus
Alleluia perpetim.

Alleluia, song of gladness,
Voice of joy that cannot die;
Alleluia is the anthem
Ever dear to choirs on high;
In the house of God abiding
Thus they sing eternally.

Alleluia thou resoundest,
True Jerusalem and free;
Alleluia, joyful mother,
All thy children sing with thee;
But by Babylon’s sad waters
Mourning exiles now are we.

Alleluia we deserve not
Here to chant forevermore;
Alleluia our transgressions
Make us for a while give o’er;
For the holy time is coming
Bidding us our sins deplore.

Therefore in our hymns we pray Thee,
Grant us, bless├Ęd Trinity,
At the last to keep Thine Easter
In our home beyond the sky;
There to Thee forever singing
Alleluia joyfully.

Alternative translation 1

Alternative translation 2

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2 thoughts on “Septuagesima”

  1. The first part of Eric Werner’s ‘The Sacred Bridge: The Interdependence of Liturgy and Music in Synagogue and Church during the First Millennium’ explores links between Christian and Jewish Lectionaries in some detail. It’s not very systematic but might be a good starting point?

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