After the fervent welcome given to our Lord by reason of "the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus" the Church suddenly confronts us with the gloomy depths of the fall of man. As in the Christmas cycle, she takes up once more the study of the Old Testament to show us all the great figures who heralded the redemptive work of Christ and whose history, symbolical of our Lord's, is well calculated to prepare us for the great feast of Easter when we shall celebrate His triumph. "Search the scriptures," said our Lord, "the same are they which give testimony of Me."
Lex gravida Christo, - the Old Law is quite full of the thought of the Messias for in everything connected with God's people our Lord was foretold and proclaimed. The Old Testament is like a gospel anticipated, lighting up with peculiar brilliance our Redeemer's life. The Church loves to set up a constant parallel in her liturgy between the first and last pages of the Bible. This parallelism is followed up through the whole of Septuagesima and Lent and we shall find it once more, and very clearly, in the Time after Pentecost.
In this Missal will be shown how the masses of this season have been composed in relation to the lessons from the Old Testament which occur in the Breviary on the same days. The table which follows, and which will be explained in greater detail on the Sundays to which it refers, shows the order of the lessons from the divine office in the seasons of Septuagesima and Lent, and in what way the masses of these seasons should be studied in order to understand fully their meaning.
|Septuagesima||History of Adam||Christ the New Adam|
|Sexagesima||History of Noe||Christ the true Noe|
|Quinquagesima||History of Abraham||Christ the true Abraham|
|First Sunday of Lent||(The thought of Isaac is|
superseded by that of of Lent)
|Christ in the desert|
|Second Sunday of Lent||History of Jacob||Christ the true Jacob|
|Third Sunday of Lent||History of Joseph||Christ the true Joseph|
Sunday of Lent
|History of Moses||Christ the true Moses|
Christ repairs the losses caused by Adam; to the Church He is a true Noe, since He is the founder of a new people; more than Abraham is He the Head of the people whom God has chosen to be His people; in a better sense than Jacob is He the favourite and blessed one of God; more than Joseph does He return good for evil, and more effectively than Moses does He free His people from the bondage of sin and nourish them with the true bread come down from Heaven.
To blend in this way the history of God's people, of our Lord and of the Church, is to enter into the attitude of mind which directed the composition of the Roman Missal and which had for its object, to enable the Church to share in the Paschal mystery which Israel foretold and Christ fulfilled.
During this season of Septuagesima, the Church lingers especially over the first three figures which we have named in the above table. There we see the fall of Adam resulting in original sin and its baneful consequences (Septuagesima); the malice of men, actual sin and the Flood which was its punishment (Sexagesima); and finally the sacrifices of Abraham and Melchisedech (Quinquagesima), which foreshadowed the sacrifice which God required from His own Son as a satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race.
This assertion of the dogma of original sin and the portrayal of its lamentable results, make His glorious title of Saviour stand out more clearly in our blessed Lord. [It was at Sichem where Abraham set up his first altar of Jehovah, that our Lord when in conversation with the Samaritan woman, for the first time proclaimed Himself the Saviour of men. Also it was Jerusalem, where Melchizedech was king, that He chose to be capital of His Kingdom. There we shall see Him set up His glorious throne of the Cross.]
The Gospel of the Labourers in the vineyard and that of the Sower, remind us that redemption extends to all men, Jew and Gentile alike, while the cure of the blind man at Jericho following the announcement of the Passion, shows us the salutary effects produced in us by the cross of Christ. The Epistles of St. Paul come in their turn during these three Sundays, to remind us that at this season, the Church must complete the Redeemer's work by entering with courage upon the purifying discipline of penance.