All very welcome!
The Season of Septuagesima comprises the three weeks immediately preceding Lent. It forms one of the principal divisions of the Liturgical Year, and is itself divided into three parts, each part corresponding to a week: the first is called Septuagesima; the second, Sexagesima; the third, Quinquagesima.
All three are named from their numerical reference to Lent, which, in the language of the Church, is called Quadragesima, - that is, Forty, - because the great Feast of Easter is prepared for by tile holy exercises of Forty Days. The words Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, and Septuagesima, tell us of the same great Solemnity as looming in the distance, and as being the great object towards which the Church would have us now begin to turn all our thoughts, and desires, and devotion.
Now, the Feast of Easter must be prepared for by a forty-days’ recollectedness and penance. Those forty-days are one of the principal Seasons of the Liturgical Year, and one of the most powerful means employed by the Church for exciting in the hearts of her children the spirit of their Christian vocation. It is of the utmost importance, that such a Season of penance should produce its work in our souls, - the renovation of the whole spiritual life. The Church, therefore, has instituted a preparation for the holy time of Lent. She gives us the three weeks of Septuagesima, during which she withdraws us, as much as may be, from the noisy distractions of the world, in order that our hearts may be the more readily impressed by the solemn warning she is to give us, at the commencement of Lent, by marking our foreheads with ashes.
This prelude to the holy season of Lent was not known in the early ages of Christianity: its institution would seem to have originated in the Greek Church. The practice of this Church being never to fast on Saturdays, the number of fasting-days in Lent, besides the six Sundays of Lent, (on which, by universal custom, the Faithful never fasted,) there were also the six Saturdays, which the Greeks would never allow to be observed as days of fasting: so that their Lent was short, by twelve days, of the Forty spent by our Saviour in the Desert. To make up the deficiency, they were obliged to begin their Lent so many days earlier.
To help us prepare for the serious time of penance and sorrow that arrives with Lent proper; to remind us sinners of the grievousness of his errors, and to exhort him to penance.
So the priest appears at the altar in violet, the colour of penance, and the front of the altar is covered with a violet curtain. To arouse our sorrow for our sins, and show the need of repentance, the Church in the name of all mankind at the Introit cries with David: The groans of death surrounded me, the sorrows of hell encompassed me: and in my affliction I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice from his holy temple. (Ps. 27, 5-7) I will love thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my firmament, and my refuge, and my deliverer. (Ps. 27:2-3) Glory be to the Father, etc.