We had pretty nice weather for the Tolstoy Windchiller this year, but I still didn’t win. And my legs were pretty sore for a while afterwards because I hadn’t gone on many runs lately this winter. After last year’s race, I wasn’t nearly as sore because I had gone on a few longer runs during the week leading up to the race. You’d think I’d eventually learn my lesson from past experience, but it’s easier to be sore than it is to be consistent.
The importance of warming up and practice reminds me of another season that’s part of the Church’s traditional calendar. From at least the 8th century in many places, this Sunday—the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday—was known as Septuagesima Sunday. The name comes from the Latin word for 70, being about 70 days from the Octave of Easter, even as the Latin word for Lent, Quadragesima, is named for 40 days. Septuagesima Sunday served as the start of a sort of warm-up period in preparation for Lent.
This Pre-Lent is observed in various ways. It’s a great opportunity to begin considering what we plan to give up or to do as extra prayer, fasting, and almsgiving when we reach Ash Wednesday—now less than 3 weeks away—instead of scrambling to decide only a few days or hours before. You might even try out some of your penances in advance, to ease yourself into it. On the other hand, perhaps more common is to observe the next few weeks as the season of carnival, culminating with Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday.” Anticipating the long days of penance that Lent would bring, people made sure to get their feasting in beforehand, also an occasion in many places for parades, dancing, and music.
However we decide to spend these final weeks before Lent, it goes quickly. Don’t let Ash Wednesday catch you off guard this year. Spend some time in prayer, really asking God what He would like you to do, so that you and our parishes and the Catholic Church throughout our diocese and the world can experience a real renewal this year, as we look forward to the matchless gift of our salvation, the victory of Life over death, the Resurrection of Jesus, our Easter Joy. Renewal in the Church and in our state and country begins with your relationship with Jesus Christ.