Many reasons are given of this name; but in my apprehension the best is a consequentia numerandi, because the first Sunday in Lent is called Quadragesima, containing about forty dayes from Easter; therefore the Sunday before that being still farther from Easter, is called Quinquagesima, five being the next number above four; and so the Sunday before that Sexagesima, and the Sunday before that Septuagesima.
This and the two next Sundayes and weeks were appointed as preparatives to the Lenten Fast, that when it came, it might be the more strictly and religiously observed. And the Regulars and those of the strictest life did fast these weeks, though the common people began not their Fast till Ashwednesday. Bernard in Septuages.
The observation of Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, are to be sure as ancient as GREGORY the Great.
The Epistle perswades us to works of penance and holy mortification; and lest we should shrink from these hardships, it encourages us by propounding the reward of these religious exercises; namely, an everlasting crown.
The Gospel is much to the same purpose. It tells us that Gods vineyard is no place for idle loyterers; all must work that will receive any penny or reward.
The Epistle propounds the example of S. Paul, who was eminent for works of mortification, and Lenten Exercises: and lest we should think that there is no need of such strictness and holy violence in Religion, the holy Gospel tells us what danger we are in of coming short of heaven, how that scarce one of four that profess Religion, and hear the word, brings forth fruit to salvation, most losing it after they have received it, for want of due care and heed.
Septuagesima and Sexagesima Sundays have perswaded us to fasting and other exercises of mortification in the Lent following; and because all these bodily exercises profit little, unless we adde faith and charity, or faith working by love, therefore this day the Epistle commends charity, the Gospel faith in Christ, by which our darkness is enlightned, as the blind mans eyes were, who wisely desired that he may see, for in sight of God consists our happiness.