Summary: The periods of servitude Israel spent in Egypt and Babylon were times repentance; an allegory depicting the meaning of Lent for us.
Septuagesima C ESCAPING PRISON Luke 6:27-38
READINGS FROM SCRIPTURE
Genesis 45:3-11, 21-28
Psalm 37:(1-2), 3-9, (10-17) BCP 384
I Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
The Reading from Genesis tells about Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, when he was quite old journeyed with his family from Palestine to settle in Egypt. A famine had struck the land promised to Abraham and his family. This forced the Bedouin people to take their flocks and families to settle near the Nile River.
Even though Jacob’s son Joseph rose to power in Egypt, Jacob’s family was not assimilated into the culture of Egypt – they remained a distinct people.
Egypt was a highly structured society. Pharoah, he priest king maintained order through a sort of reign of terror – by maintaining a tradition of appeasing a pantheon of gods that had to be obeyed else nature would fail. Pharoah and his priests ruled the land with detailed instructions as to how the people should conduct themselves. One generation was very like another. By birth, a persons life was predetermined. The children of Abraham did not fear the gods of Egypt and refused to give up their mental freedom though eventually they were reduced to servitude.
This story tells how Israel’s Children went down to Egypt. It became the beginning of the family’s national story. Christians more than a 1000 years later, made it their story.
We say they “went down to Egypt.” That descent into servitude of God’s free people is a sort of death, a descent into a grave. Four hundred years later they experience a resurrection as Moses leads them out of Egypt. They wandered 40 years in the wilderness before entering the promised land.
Christians adapted Israel’s story, retelling it everyday in the Church year.
When we in English, try to make sense of our centuries old traditions surrounding the Lent-Easter Cycle, our words get in the way of the concepts. Many of the words have lost meaning.
For example Lent. The word comes from a very old English word that simply meant spring. It comes from the ancient Pagan past of English people and has nothing to do with Jewish or Christian tradition. If you were to go to Europe and speak to a native of any country there who knows no English, they would not understand the word Lent
By usage, we who speak English identify Lent with the Church Calendar of 40 days prior to Holy Saturday. Lent is the period (or season) from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday (forty days). As we get into the season, we will explore the readings and the meanings of the season. The liturgical color for the season is purple, a sign of sorrow for sin and repentance.
Septuagesima is the ninth Sunday before Easter, the third before Lent. In liturgical literature the name "Septuagesima" occurs for the first time in the Gelasian Sacramentary a Latin liturgy that dates from the 7th century.
Why the day (or the week, or the period) has the name Septuagesima, and the next Sunday Sexagesima, etc., is a matter of dispute among writers. It is certainly not the seventieth day before Easter.
So the meaning of the words Septuagesima and Lent have been lost to us. The practices, however are clear having been preserved in traditional acts and writings. When we don’t know the specific meaning of a word in a context, like Septuagesima, some bright guy will make up a meaning. The keeper of the liturgical books, Amularius, said,”Amularius, "De eccl. Off." , I, I, would make the Septuagesima mystically represent the Babylonian Captivity of seventy years.” Amularius didn’t know, centuries ago why this Sunday is called Septuagesima. So he made up an allegorical meaning. It means we are enslaved in heathen Babylon.