The counting down to Easter, in the Church’s calendar, starts today which is known as Septuagesima Sunday.
Septuagesima literally means “seventieth” and is used to refer to seventieth day before Easter. This is not actually exact as Easter is only sixty three days from today. But Septuagesima alerts us of the approach of Easter, to which it also leads us, through Lent. Septuagesima is the first of the three pre-Lenten Sundays with which transition is made from the Epiphany to Lent, and then, Easter.
The other pre-Lenten Sundays are Sexagesima and Quinquagesima while the Lent itself is known as Quadragesima, indicating forty days preparation leading to Easter Celebration. Henceforth, we focus on Easter, which is the key Event of the Church around which all others revolve.
The use of seventy for Septuagesima might also be symbolic, representing a profound mystery connected with the number. St Augustine speaks of two times: the time before Easter, representing our sojourn on earth, and the time after Easter, representing eternity. The Church also speaks of two places corresponding to these two times, Babylon and Jerusalem. Now the Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years; and many great liturgists uphold that Septuagesima is used for the season to express this mystery.
Easter is the consummation and celebration of the Salvation accomplished for us by the Lord on the Cross. The Gospel truth remains that it is God who saves us by his grace (Eph. 2:8-9). But a good study of the Bible shows that it is not fully effected without anything from us. We have to believe and practically accept the Gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and his salvific work at Calvary. We must continue in our faith and not move from the firm foundation that the Gospel provides, if we are to enjoy the gracious salvation which God offers us in Jesus Christ.
Our partnership with God in our salvation is given expression in Colossians 1:21-23: “And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven…”
Paul, the exponent of grace, is entirely consistent in saying that though we do not earn our salvation, we do have something to do with it. Hyper-Calvinism denies the necessity of human action, and Arminianism denies the true nature of the Divine action. But the Bible clearly sets forth both the divine and human essential in God’s plan of salvation.
The Collect for the week affirms that “Jesus Christ is for all mankind the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, and so petitions that we be granted “to walk in his way, to rejoice in his truth, and to share in His risen life”. This means that we are required to totally surrender our wills, ways, presumed knowledge/truths, life and enjoyment and yield to Christ’s. This is our role /duty as the saved or in our salvation.
Reflection on the Readings for the Day (Mattins): Deut. 5:1-21; Luke 13:22-end
The OT passage is a commemoration of God’s covenant with the people of Israel at Horeb. It was God who initiated the covenant and gave the terms. The role of the Israelites was to comply with the decrees or laws of God known as the Ten Commandments. Moses commanded them to hear, learn, and follow God’s regulations. That was their role in their salvation.
In the NT passage, Jesus underscored the point that what our salvation becomes is what we make out of it. Entering the kingdom requires a deliberate and determined effort or striving on our part. Those who do not make sufficient effort may not be able to enter. Even the people of Israel, who by virtue of being children of covenant through Abraham their father would be locked out of the kingdom if they fail to struggle for it. The passage ended with Jesus’ rebuke of Jerusalem for missing her salvation by her indisposition and wicked acts.
The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba, FIMC, CMC.
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.