This week in Sunday school, we considered an ancient custom of an almost now bygone era: the ‘Gesimas. Some may worry that Fr. Ben is occasionally making things up for the sake of filling space and time. But fear not, the ‘Gesimas are real and, despite their infrequent practice in the modern-day church, present an interesting and potentially fruitful topic for our corporate consideration.
The three Sundays before Ash Wednesday formed a sort of pre-Lenten observance. The first of these, which happens to be this past Sunday, is Septuagesima. On this Sunday, some of those practices that we presently associate with Lent used to begin in many churches (e.g. omitting Alleluia and Gloria, fasting, using purple).
More than outward appearances, these last weeks leading up to Lent served as a mirror into which we might look through the collects and lessons considering the cost of discipleship and those hindrances which presently beset us. This chance to examine our consciences and our actions helps to plan and form the disciplines which we may undertake in the 40 days to come, thinking on what we might prune away in order to make room for that which is more beneficial and fruitful.
Rather than being caught off guard spiritually by a liturgically sudden Ash Wednesday, the ‘Gesimas help us to prepare. Much like the need to prepare for a full and fruitful confession by taking stock of the whole of our spiritual lives, the weeks which lie ahead of us help us to prepare for a full and fruitful Lent, all with the hope of Easter set before our eyes, the great and glorious prize of the days ahead of us and of our very lives.
For another look at the ‘Gesimas, I encourage the following article from the Living Church: