Msgr. Beaulieu – Quinquagesima

The Sunday Before Ash Wednesday

Though no longer true, before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the Sunday immediately prior to Ash Wednesday was known as Quinquagesima Sunday. The title was derived from the Latin word for fiftieth, or quinquagesimus, marking fifty days before Easter, which, this year, in the Catholic Church will be observed on 2023 April 9. It was also known as Estomihi, which is a moniker derived from the incipit, or the opening words, of the Introit for Quinguagesima Sunday, which is now used as the Entrance Antiphon for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary time: “Be my protector, O God, a mighty stronghold to save me.” This last Sunday immediately prior to Ash Wednesday is currently known by its ordinal number within the first part of Ordinary Time — either the fourth through ninth Sunday in Tempus per annum, depending upon the variable date of Easter.

Before the conciliar reforms, in Catholic parishes, the Gospel for this fiftieth Sunday before Easter would have been Luke 18:31–43, the Lord’s third prediction of His impending passion, “Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled’…but [the disciples] understood none of this…” In that pericope, from verse 35 onward, the heretofore Gospel passage also recounted Saint Luke’s version of Jesus healing a blind beggar near Jericho. The passage foreshadows the themes of Lent and Holy Week.

Among other-than-Catholic churches, those using the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), while that lectionary echoes the Gospels three-year cyclical nature of the passages, the RCL Gospel on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday is selected from one of the Synoptic accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Since it is Year A of those readings, the passage comes from Saint Matthew (Mt 17:1-9).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the equivalent Sunday observance prior to Great Lent (Gk. Μεγάλη Τεσσαρακοστή) is called Forgiveness Sunday, which this year will be observed on Sunday, February 26 with Great Lent beginning on the next day, known as Clean Monday. The Orthodox date for Pascha or  Easter will occur on 16 April 2023.


O Lord, we beseech Thee graciously hear the prayers of Thy people; that we who are justly afflicted for our sins may, for the glory of Thy name, mercifully be delivered. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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