Sunday, February 17, 2019

Septuagesima 2019

When, dearest brethren, you begin a new season, you must renew your lives. … For this does the Apostle admonish, saying “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Eph. 4, 23), and again, “though our outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4, 16). For just as he is renewed who passes from evil to good, so also is he renewed who passes from good to better. He who passes from wantonness or any sort of impurity to chastity, has renewed his life. He who was wont to take unjustly what belongs to another, if he begins to distribute in mercy what is his own, renews his life. The proud man who passes to humility, the detractor of his brethren who begins to love them, without a doubt renews his life; since he who was a member of the devil by living badly, begins to be in the body of the new man, that is, Our Lord Jesus Christ, through right faith and good works.

The Creation of the World and Expulsion from the Garden, by Giovanni di Paolo, 1445. These passages from the first chapters of Genesis are read in the traditional Roman form of the Divine Office on Septuagesima and the following week.
You have frequently heard, dearest brethren, that there are two men, that is, Adam and Christ: the former is called the old man, the latter is called the new. And therefore, he who was evil, was old, by imitating him who in paradise was proud and disobedient; but he that is good, is new, by following Him who said, “Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart,” (Matt. 9, 29); of whom also the Apostle said “He became obedient unto death.” (Phil. 2, 8). …

Let none of us be sure (of his spiritual condition, merely) because he is baptized; for, just as not all those who run in the stadium receive the prize, (1 Cor. 9, 28, from the Epistle of Septuagesima), that is, the intended reward, but he who in the running arrives first; so also not all who have faith are saved, but only those who persevere in the good work who they have begun. And just as he who fights against another abstains from all things, so also you must abstain from all vices, so that you may be able to overcome the devil who persecutes you. … Since you have already been called through faith unto the vineyard, that is, to the unity of the Holy Church, live and abide in such a way that you may be able to receive the denarius, that is, the happiness of the heavenly kingdom, from the bounty of God. (Matt. 20, 1-16, the Gospel of Septuagesima). … Far be it from (even the inveterate sinner) to despair of God’s mercy, for some are called to His vineyard at the first hour, some at the third, some at the sixth, some at the ninth, some at the eleventh; that is, some in childhood, some in adolescence, some in youth, some in old age, are drawn to God’s service. …

The Workers in the Vineyard, by Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich (1712–74), ca. 1750 (Public domain image from Wikimedia.)
May almighty God grant that you be not of that number, who crossed the Red Sea on dry land, ate manna in the desert, and drank the spiritual drink, and because of their murmuring, perished in the desert. May He grant rather that you be of that number who entered the promised land, and by working faithfully in the vineyard of the Church, may merit to receive the reward of everlasting blessedness; so that with Christ our Head, you who are His members may reign for the infinity of ages.

This sermon on Septuagesima by an anonymous author was traditionally included among the works of St Ambrose, but, as noted in the Patrologia Latina (XVII, 631A-632C) is certainly not his, since Forelent had not yet been instituted in his time.

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