What are Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays?

Question

What are Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays?

Answer

These terms are not in the Bible and are rarely used today except in the traditional Latin Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. They were actually eliminated by the Second Vatican Council. They are terms for the three Sundays immediately prior to Lent:
Quinquagesima Sunday (Quinquagesimae, Estomihi, Shrove Sunday or the Sunday right before Lent) is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. It comes from Latin quinquagesimus, meaning "fiftieth." So, it is the period of fifty days before Easter. For numerous early Christians it was the beginning of the fast before Easter.

Sexagesima Sunday is the Sunday before Quinquagesima or the second Sunday before Lent. It comes from the Latin sexagesimus, meaning "sixtieth," referring to the eighth Sunday before Easter.

Septuagesima Sunday is the third Sunday before Lent or the ninth Sunday before Easter. It comes from the Latin for "seventieth." It falls roughly within 70 days of Easter Sunday. It is also symbolic of the 70 years of Babylonian captivity.

Though you didn’t inquire about it, Quadragesima ("fortieth") Sunday is the first official Sunday of Lent. It denotes a season of preparation by fasting and prayer.

Again, none of these terms are found within Scripture and were established on and by the traditions of man. This said, there’s nothing wrong with a person or church praying or fasting during Lent. God’s Word demands both as the Holy Spirit leads and as a regular practice in Christian living.

Reference

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 print / 1995 online). (https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/). Last Accessed 4 February 2021.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).