Pre-Lenten Season The Pre-Lenten season, both a precursor to, and an extension of Lent, coming to our Prayer Book by way of the medieval missals.

The "gesima" Sundays---Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima---instituted in the late sixth century, each refers to the period of time before Easter: 70, 60, and 50 days respectively.

From history, we may recall that the late sixth century was a perilous time in Italy, and those sad and perilous conditions are reflected in the propers for these Sundays. Whether pestilence, famine, earthquake, or the ravages of the barbarians, these difficult times and circumstances led to an increased awareness and dwelling on the shortcomings of humankind in the eyes of God, and the assumption that God was punishing mankind for his evil deeds.

There was at the same time in the Eastern Church a tradition that observed an eight-week, rather than a six-week Lenten fast. This Eastern Church influence contributed to the adoption of the Pre-Lenten season by the Western Church that we observe today as an extension of the six-week Lent, and preserved by the English Church. It remains as a period of preparation for the penitential season of Lent, and an important part of our Catholic Heritage.

Though it would take centuries for the Church to adopt a systematic division of the Church Year, there still remain differences in the Church between the Eastern and Western branches, yet undivided in Faith once delivered.