ASK FATHER: Why is it “Septuagesima” if it isn’t really the 70th day before Easter?

From a reader…


Tomorrow is Septuagesima Sunday, which is supposed to mean “seventieth”, as in 70 days from Easter. Then next Sunday is Sexagesima, or “sixtieth”, 10 days difference but only 7 days later. How does this add up?

Good question.

Roman numbering can be a little fluid.

The number 70 is more symbolic than arithmetical.

The Sundays which follow Septuagesima (“seventieth”) are Sexagesima (“sixtieth”) and Quinquagesima (“fiftieth”) before Ash Wednesday brings in Lent, called in Latin Quadragesima, “fortieth”.

These Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, before Lent or Quadragesima begins, are rough estimates but within certain parameters.

  • Septuagesima is the 63rd day before Easter and, therefore, it in the 7th (septimus) decade or 10-day period before Easter (61st to 70th days).
  • Sexagesima Sunday is the 56th before Easter, in the 6th (sextus) decade (51st to 60th).
  • Quinquagesima is the 49th day, 5th (quintus) decade (41st to 50th) days before Easter.

And that, dear readers, accounts for the names of the Sundays.

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  1. fatheradam says:

    A note that the count is not days until Easter. It is days until the Triduum. Quadragesima Sunday (the first Sunday of Lent) is exactly 40 days until Holy Thursday evening when the Triduum begins. The Triduum is not part of Quadragesima (Lent).

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