Why is this Sunday called Septuagesima?
The word means seventy. According to the First Council of Orleans, in the year A.D. 545, many pious ecclesiastics and lay persons of the primitive Church used to fast seventy days before Easter, and their fast was called, therefore, Septuagesima, a name which was afterwards retained to distinguish this Sunday from others. The same was the case with the three following Sundays; many Christians beginning their fast sixty days before Easter, whence the name Sexagesima; others fifty days, whence Quinquagesima; others forty days, whence Quadragesima.
Why did the first Christians fast seventy days?
Alcuin and Amalarius say that the captivity of the Jews in Babylon first suggested it; for as the Jews were obliged to do penance seventy years, that they might thereby merit to return into the promised land, so Christians sought to regain the grace of God by fasting for seventy days.
Why does the Church, from this Sunday until Easter, omit all joyful chants, as the Te Deum, Alleluia, Gloria in excelsis?
To remind the sinner of the grievousness of his errors, and to exhort him to penance. To incite us to sorrow for our sins, and to show us the necessity of repentance, the Church at the Introit in the name of all nations unites her prayers with David, saying: "The sorrows of death surrounded me, the sorrow of hell encompassed me, and in my affliction I called upon the Lord, and He heard my voice from His holy temple. I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer" (Ps. xvii. 5-7, 2, 3). Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
he First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, ix. 24 - x. 5. Brethren: Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain. And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things, and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown: but we an incorruptible one. I therefore so run, not as an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air: but I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea: and did all eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ), but with most of them God was not well pleased.
O Jesus, assist me, that with Thy holy grace I may follow the example of St. Paul, and endeavor to deny myself, to chastise my body, and by continual exercise of every virtue, to obtain perfection and everlasting life. Amen.
he Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, According to St. Matthew, xx. 1-16. At that time Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven is like to a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market place idle, and he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just. And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner. But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle? They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go you also into my vineyard. And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first. When therefore they were come, that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: and they also received every man a penny. And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house, saying: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats. But he answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee. Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? is thy eye evil, because I am good? So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.
In these parables what is to be understood by the master of a family, the vineyard, the laborers, and the penny?
The master of a family is God, Who calls all men as laborers to His vineyard of the true religion, or Church, and to receive the promised penny, which is the divine grace and eternal salvation.
How and when does God call men?
By the instructions of parents and teachers, by preachers and confessors, by spiritual books, edifying conversation, good examples and inspirations; in early youth, in manhood, and in old age -- which stages of human life are also signified by the different hours of the day.
Who are the laborers in the vineyard?
Those who work, combat, and suffer for God and His honor, for their own salvation and that of others, particularly by the different hours of the day.
How should we work in the vineyard of the Lord?
As in a vineyard men must dig, destroy the weeds, cut off what is useless and bad, manure, plant, and bind, in like manner must we, in the spiritual vineyard of our souls, destroy the weeds of vice by rooting out sinful inclinations and their causes, and by real penance. In other words: 1. We must hate every sin. 2. We must produce in ourselves a fervent desire to destroy vice. 3. We must earnestly beg God's grace, without which we can do nothing. 4. We must attend zealously at instructions, sermons, and catechism. 5. We must often go to confession and communion, and follow our confessor's directions. 6. Every morning we must make firm resolutions, and every night an examination of conscience. 7. We must read in some spiritual book, treating of the predominant sin which we have to root out. 8. We must venerate some saint who in life committed the same sin, as, for instance, Mary Magdalen, who from being a great sinner became a great penitent. 9. We must fast, give alms, and do other good works.
Why did the last man, as mentioned in the gospel, receive as much as those who came first?
Because God does not reward men according to the time of their labor, but according to the zeal, love, fidelity, and humility with which they have concurred with His grace (Wis. iv. 7, 8, 11; II Cor. ix. 6).
What is ment by "many are called, but few chosen"?
It is as if Our Saviour should say, Do not wonder that the last shall be first, and the first last, for many will not be received at all. From among the Jews and gentiles He has called many, but few only have followed Him, and of these again only few can be chosen. How many Christians are there who do not accept His calling, or who fail to live according to their vocation, neither cooperating with His grace nor trying forcibly to enter the kingdom of heaven!
O most merciful and benign Lord, Who, without any merit of our own, hast called us, Thy unworthy servants, out of mere mercy, into Thy vineyard - the Church - and commanded us to work therein, grant us grace, we beseech Thee, never to be idle, but as faithful servants to be always doing Thy holy will. Whatever we have heretofore left undone, we will in future endeavor to do with persevering zeal, through the grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.