Collect: Show gracious favor, O Lord, we pray, to the works of penance we have begun, that we may have strength to accomplish with sincerity the bodily observances we undertake.
So one of the coolest things when learning about old Roman tradition is seeing how the calendar works. For example, today is the Friday after Ash Wednesday, which technically is Lent, but is not the first week of Lent.
Originally though, Ash Wednesday was the Wednesday of Quinquagesima, loosely translated as the 50 days before Easter.
In fact, the old calendar had Septuagesima (70), Sexagesima (60), and Quinquagesima (50), as the three weeks before Lent. During these three weeks, purple was worn, and the Gloria and Alleluia were already omitted. There is actually a traiditon of “burying the Alleluia” during Septuagesima, where the church buries some sheet music and digs it back up for Easter.
The Propers during the Masses of these Sundays greatly emphasized preparing one’s self from spiritual attacks during Lent; it is basically prepping for Lent, and I find it very spiritually fulfilling to prepare for Lent rather than taking it as a surprise after Ordinary Time.
And so as we approach the first week of Lent, here are the Collect prayers of the three weeks before Lent, for your edification:
Septuagesima: We beseech You, O Lord, graciously to hark
to the prayers of Your people: so that we who are justly afflicted for our sins, may mercifully be freed for the glory of Your Name.
Sexagesima: O God, You who perceive that we trust in no action of our own: propitiously grant; that we may be fortified against every adverse thing by the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles*
Quinquagesima: We beseech You, O Lord, graciously attend to our prayers: and, having been loosed from the fetters of sins, guard us from every adversity.
These prayers are no where to be found in the new calendar, but for almost 2000 years, Holy Mother Church has found that the worst spiritual attacks occur during the greatest of the penitential seasons, and so she has prepared us with these prayers in order so that we may prepare for battle.
And yes, Lent is a spiritual battle; it is a battle against the flesh; it is a battle against the temptations of this world.
But we must remember that we fight with prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. And this can be done with the joy that Christ has risen and will return again.
This can be done with the joy that we have been saved. Let us spread that joy.