O LORD, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through…
Latin original Collect:
Preces populi tui quaesumus Domine, clementer exaudi, ut qui iuste pro peccatis nostris affligimur, pro tui nominis gloria misericorditer liberemur, per...
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Epistle: 1Cor 9:24-10:5 Know ye not that they which run …
Gradual: The Lord also will be a refuge in times of trouble…
Gospel: Matt 20:1-16 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto...
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This marks the beginning of the season of Pre-Lent. Septuagesima Sunday it has been called for millennia. This is the 70th (Septuagesima) 7th "decade" before Easter. It is to be followed sequentially by Sexagesima (60) Quinquagesima (50) and finally Lent itself – Quadragesima (40). Of course these are not exact counts, but rather round numbers that were helpful to the folk to use. The names helped to prepare them for the coming fast and penitence associated with Lent. This was also the period in the very early church when the catechumens were prepared for Baptism through intense study of the Gospel, and memorization of the Lord's Prayer, the Commandments, and the Creed.
Our collect is striking in its turn for this season from those of Epiphany as it focuses on sin, punishment, and pardon. It very much helps to turn our focus for the coming Lent. It was customary for the folk to begin to consider their predicament, and on the eve or day of Ash Wednesday, the 40th regular day before Easter (Sundays excepted), to make their humble confession and receive absolution from their priest.
The collect makes an acknowledgement as well that God is just in punishing us for our sins. The priest prayed, "ut qui iuste pro peccatis nostris affligimur" I can imagine that he bid them to silently consider their thoughts, words, and deeds that deserved God's judgment, before collecting their prayers.
Next though, we have the good news. Even though we deserve punishment, God has given us deliverance from death through his son, for the Glory of his name. That is good news indeed, and it is the theme that our Lord put forth in the Gospel story of the householder who justified all who answered his call.
There is another part of today's lesson that the folk had to grapple with as do we, and that is the admonition from Paul in 1st Corinthians. Not all that are in the Church ought to go about thinking that their race is won – No! Paul makes it clear that diligence and duty are in order in this life. We must run the way of the Commandments, or we may find ourselves as many of the ancient Israelites did in the Wilderness – expelled, abandoned, and condemned. However, Paul said he ran that race with all confidence in the outcome.
(Portions were paraphrased and passages cited from The Collect of the Day, by Paul Zeller Strodach, 1939, The United
Lutheran Press, Philadelphia) http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/s/t/r/strodach_pz.htm
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"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" [St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 14:19]
* ORDO CENTURIONUM * IN HOC SIGNO VINCES * TIME DEUM ET OPERARE IUSTITIAM