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Our Lord and His Holy Apostles at the Last Supper


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Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we may attain to serve Thee with purified minds. Who liveth and reigneth, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, through all the ages of ages.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Septuagesima Sunday

(Using the traditional Catholic calendar) today is Septuagesima Sunday, the start of the pre-Lenten season, a time of voluntary fasting and abstinence for some, a time of increased self-indulgence for others, all with an eye to the approach of the penitential season of Lent.

The Masses start to take a more sorrowful tone; starting today, "Alleluia" will no longer be said during Mass until the Easter Vigil.

Quadragesima Sunday occurs 40 days before Good Friday. Quinquagesima Sunday occurs 50 days before Easter, if you count both the Sunday and Easter. So Sexagesima (60) and Septuagesima (70) could just be an extension of the sequence, used to name the Sundays leading up to Lent in a consistent way.

But Septuagesima has an appeal as a name for the start of the season. The number occurs several times in the Bible, and could have symbolic value. (Today is actually only 63 days until Easter). Dom Gueranger particularly points to the Babylonian Captivity, which lasted 70 years (Jeremiah 25:8-12; Jeremiah 29:10; Daniel 9:2, 2 Chronicles 36:14-23). Israel was in captivity, and we are in captivity, but with the hope of one day returning to our true home.

Besides the Babylonian exile, there are other occurrences of the number 70 which can be read symbolically. Seventy members of Jacob's family went to Egypt (Genesis 46:26). Ezekiel saw 70 elders adoring idols (Ezekiel 8). According to Jewish tradition, the 70 descendants of Noah through Shem, Ham, and Japheth named in Genesis 10 became the fathers of 70 nations after the fall of the tower of Babel, and the confusion of languages (Genesis 11). Jerusalem fell in AD 70. The Egyptians mourned the death of Israel for seventy days (Genesis 50:3). Seventy years is the ordinary length of life in the Bible (Psalm 90:10). When the chosen people began longing for the fleshpots of Egypt, Moses took seventy elders of Israel up the mountain with him, and the Holy Spirit came down upon them (Numbers 11:24-25, Exodus 24:9). Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21-22). Jacob fathered 70 children (Exodus 1:5) The oasis that sheltered the chosen people in the desert had 70 palm trees (Exodus 15:27). Jesus chose 70 disciples (Luke 10:1-17). In a prophecy in Daniel, seventy weeks, or "weeks of years", are given for people to repent and atone for sin, in preparation for the last days of the present world.

There are a wealth of images in the Bible associating the number 70 with sin, punishment, mourning, repentance and blessing, which serve to turn our minds and hearts towards our Creator, Who wills to make us in His own spotless image, so that we might live with Him forever in Paradise.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

There is also a tradition that 70 (or 72) scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint).

1/07/2010 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

From site of uncertain reliability:

The number seventy is another combination of two of the perfect numbers, seven and ten. We have seen something of the significance of their sum under the number Seventeen; their product is no less significant.

As compared with the sum of two numbers, the product exhibits the significance of each in an intensified form.

Hence 7 x 10 signifies perfect spiritual order carried out with all spiritual power and significance. Both spirit and order are greatly emphasised.

1/07/2010 06:18:00 PM  

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