The “Gesima” Sundays; the “Pre-Game” of Lent

At the beginning of the new Church Year in Advent last December, Zion switched to the Historic One Year Lectionary. Instead of rotating readings every three years, the Lectionary will stay the same from year to year. For the most part, the only observable difference will be a Latin name in the bulletin from time to time depending on the Sunday, which shows how old it is!

For the most astute observer, however, another difference is that instead of a continua lectio, or “continual reading” through a book of the Bible, the three Readings are catechetically categorized. In other words, instead of beginning in the first chapter of a Bible Book, with each subsequent week’s Reading coming from it in general order of appearance, now all three readings, will have a unified doctrinal theme for each Sunday. The readings one week might be from Exodus, 1 Corinthians, and Matthew; the week following might be from Isaiah, Hebrews, and Luke! You will ob-serve that exact arrangement this month as we will encounter the only other observable difference with the Historic Lectionary. After Transfiguration, which concludes the Epiphany season, there will be a three week period known as the “Gesima” Sundays leading up to Lent.

Every fall, Buckeye fans typically enjoy pre-game festivities before watching the actual football game, whether it is in the parking lot at the Horseshoe or at home. I would assume that Buckeye fans typically have even more traditions associated with the pre-game celebration when Ohio State plays against rival Michigan. In much the same way, but to an exponentially greater degree, we as Christians have many “pre-festival” traditions, festivities, and/or commemorations for the highest festival of the Church Year: the Day of Resurrection when Jesus blotted out sin, death, and the power of the devil.

The “Gesima” Sundays are the time of pre-Lent. Since Lent is a season of preparation for the greatest of feasts, we should not be surprised that a preparation for the preparation developed in the Historic Lectionary! That is the role of the “Gesima” Sundays; we are preparing to prepare for all that Jesus did for us through His suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, and rising again! Just think of everything that happens in Lent: Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. No other season of the Church Year has more traditions, festivities, or commemorations attached to it! There is a lot to prepare for!

The three “Gesima” Sundays encourage us to get in the mindset of prayer and fasting before Ash Wednesday. They are a great transition from the celebratory Christmas and Epiphany seasons to the more solemn Lenten season. Remember Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, which is also the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday: “When you pray… When you fast” (not “if you pray” or “if you fast”! See Matthew 6:5-18.)

They are called the “Gesima” Sundays because each Sunday’s name has the word “Gesima” in it (pronounced with a hard ‘g’ such as the ‘g’ in golf). The full names of these “Gesima” Sundays are a mouthful to say! The first is Septuagesima (pronounced sep-too-ah-ges-i-ma), the second is Sexagesima, and the third is Quinquagesima (pronounced kwin-kwah-ges-i-ma). Septuagesima means “seventy days”, Sexagesima means “sixty days”, and Quinquagesima means – you guessed it – “fifty days”. The names reflect the number of days they occur before Easter!

May the “Gesima” Sundays be a blessing to you as you prepare in repentance and faith, and in prayer and fasting, for the solemnity of Lent climaxing in the greatest day of every year when our Alleluias return in response to the words, “Christ is risen”!

Your servant in Christ, Pastor Hromowyk


Sunday Worship Services - 8:00 A.M. and 10:30 A.M.

Midweek Services - Wednesdays,  7:00 P.M.

Ash Wednesday Service  February 26,
Noon and 7:00 P.M.

with Holy Communion and Imposition of Ashes




Holy Communion is available every Sunday at both services.

Next to Easter, the oldest season in the Church Year is Epiphany. It has been observed since the second century, falling on January 6th.