The Season of the “Gesimas”
You’ll notice, looking ahead at the church calendar, that two strangely named Sundays are coming up in 2017: on February 12th, “Septuagesima,” and on February 19th, “Sexagesima.” The next Sunday, February 26th, although it is called “Baptism of Jesus,” is also known as “Quinquagesima.” What we affectionately call the “Gesimas” is actually the season of Pre-Lent, the bridge between Epiphany and Lent.
The names of the days refer to about how far away the Sunday is from the celebration of Easter; thus, Septuagesima, Latin for “seventy,” is about 70 days before Easter, Sexagesima (“sixty”) is about 60 days before, and Quinquagesima (“fifty”) is about 50 days before Easter. Lent, as you may know, spans the 40 days leading up to Easter.
Nils Jakob Laache describes this season in his devotional Book of Family Prayer: “This period of the Church Year is our ‘narthex,’ our entrance, into the season of Lent, a time for us to pause before we begin our pilgrimage to Calvary and the empty tomb…. Each of the three Sundays focuses on one of the three Sola’s of Lutheranism. The first week we will hear how we are saved by Grace Alone (Sola Gratia), the next week of Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura), and finally we consider the importance of Baptism and how we are saved by Faith Alone (Sola Fide). With our eyes focused on how God works to save us, we are prepared to enter the penitential season of Lent” (Laache, Book of Family Prayer, 162).
So now you know what to look for. On February 12th, Jesus tells the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16), while in the Old Testament we hear of Jeremiah’s call, as one whom the Lord knew while he was still in the womb (Jer. 1:4-10), and St. Paul encourages his readers to run the race faithfully to receive the promised prize (1 Cor. 9:24-10:5). What does all this have to do with Sola Gratia?
On February 19th, Jesus tells the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Luke 8:4-15), as Isaiah compares God’s Word to rain and snow (Is. 55:10-13), and St. Paul boasts of his weaknesses and the revelations and grace of God (2 Cor. 11:19-12:9). Additionally, this year, the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, we will commemorate on this day the death of Martin Luther (February 18th, 1546), remembering him as a great preacher of the Word. What does all this have to do with Sola Scriptura?
Lastly, on February 26th, we will hear the account of Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:13-17), while St. Peter tells of the great benefits of Baptism and the picture of the faithful of God in the Flood (1 Pet. 3:18-22), and Isaiah prophesies of the Chosen Servant of the Lord (Is. 42:1-9). What does all this have to do with Sola Fide?
Continue looking ahead to this season, and to all the upcoming seasons and Sundays of the Church Year. This year, a year in which we look back on our history and our heritage, we follow the readings of the Historic Lectionary. Look ahead each week in the Hymnary on pages 202-203 to see what lessons are coming up. May
your devotions be enriched by God’s grace for you in his Word, inspiring faith in the Savior from sin.
-Pastor Michael G. Lilienthal