Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Gesima Sisters and their (almost) return

Some of you reading this will remember the three Sundays prior to Lent being known as the ‘Gesima’ Sundays: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. They formed a sort of “semi-season” of preparation before Lent in the ancient Western Kalendar. One priest I worked with used to speak lovingly of “the Gesima Sisters” and their annual visit The current revision of the Prayer Book swept these observances away, however. The focus today in the Calendar is on Epiphanytide as a time of Theophany (the showing-forth of Christ as Son of God) and the mission of the Church to share the Gospel to all peoples.

As valuable as this focus is, there remains a very real need for Anglican Christians to prepare for Holy Lent. When we defer that work until the days immediately prior to Ash Wednesday, we are likely not going to get very deep in our Lenten observance.

To that end, during these three last Sundays of the season, we are focusing on classic themes and practices for preparation for the full observance of a Holy Lent.
- Sermons on rekindling a Holy Desire for God, humility, and forgiveness of others
- A Lenten Rule form will be set out (with a detachable commitment form) with instruction for considering your Lenten discipline.
- A list of key Lenten practices with explanations will be in the Tidings (our parish newsletter)

We will also celebrate Shrovetide, of course! The Last Sunday after Epiphany will witness our “Farewell to Alleluia.” Holy Eucharist on Shrove Tuesday (10 AM) will commemorate St. Agatha and also the end of Ordinary Time; the traditional pancake supper will be offered in the evening.

While the Gesima Sundays are no longer officially part of the Church Year, my own sense is that eventually, a pre-Lenten time of “official” preparation will re-emerge in the Episcopal Calendar. It simply reflects a wise and holy practice. You are always welcome to contact me to discuss your Lenten observance; this glorious “Feast of Lent,” as George Herbert called it, deserves consideration. The opportunity it provides and the Paschal joy it heralds deserves no less.

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