This Sunday is Septuagesima; Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. This is the day that marks nine weeks from Easter, and depending on the year, something between 60 and 70 days until Easter, and Septuagesima means “Seventieth” in Latin. For many centuries, the Church began her preparation for Lent on this Sunday, and in the Extraordinary Form we use the violet vestments from this day forward until Easter, except on Feast Days which require another color. In the more Latinized Cultures: Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France, and their former colonies, this marks the beginning of the Carnival Season which culminates with Mardi Gras. This is also the day that we have always turned in our blessed palms from the previous Palm Sunday. They are collected and then we burn them to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday.
So even though in the revised liturgical calendar that we use since Vatican II, we no longer have the names Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima, and Quadragesima for the Sundays leading up to Lent, we just make them a part of Ordinary Time; there is no other date specified to collect the palms. This turning in of our Blessed Palms, which traditionally we somehow tucked behind or draped around the Crucifix over our beds, should bring to mind the renewal that Lent promises: “out with the old—in with the new.” Just as we refresh our palms which represent the best of the Jewish Nation as they adore the Messiah on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we should begin to prepare for the triumphal entry of Jesus into our lives this Lent and Easter to refresh our spiritual lives and make us the best version of ourselves for the Lord. Just as the old palms are burned and completely transformed for a penitential practice, so we need to allow ourselves to take on the penitential Lenten practices of added prayer, fasting and abstinence, and almsgiving (giving to the poor without expecting anything in return). Lent can be a great adventure, in which we renew our resolutions for the new year, make some spiritual ones, and then with the extra graces God makes available to us in this season, bring them to fruition. Thus, we arrive to Easter to proclaim the Resurrected Lord having experienced our own resurrection in the achievement of our goals. Alleluiah, Alleluiah!!!