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The name Quinquagesima originates from Latin quinquagesimus (fiftieth). This is in reference to the fifty days before Easter Day using inclusive counting which counts both Sundays (normal counting would count only one of these). Since the forty days of the Lenten fast does not include Sundays, the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, succeeds Quinquagesima Sunday by only three days. The name Estomihi is derived from the beginning of the Introit for the Sunday, Esto mihi in Deum protectorem, et in locum refugii, ut salvum me facias, Psalms 31:3.[dead link]
Dates and significance
The earliest Quinquagesima Sunday can occur is February 1 and the latest is March 7.
Roman Catholic Church
In the Roman Catholic Church, the terms for this Sunday (and the two immediately before it — Sexagesima and Septuagesima Sundays) were eliminated in the reforms following the Second Vatican Council, and these Sundays are part of Ordinary Time. The contemporary service books of many Anglican provinces do not use the term but it remains in the Book of Common Prayer.
According to the reformed Roman Rite Roman Catholic calendar, this Sunday is now known by its number within Ordinary Time — fourth through ninth, depending upon the date of Easter — or the fourth through the ninth Sunday after Epiphany in the contemporary Anglican calendars, and that of various Protestant polities. The earlier form of the Roman Rite, with its references to Quinquagesima Sunday, and to the Sexagesima and Septuagesima Sundays, continues to be observed in some communities.
In traditional lectionaries, the Sunday concentrates on Luke 18:31-34, "Jesus took the twelve aside and said, 'Lo, we go to Jerusalem, and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man shall be fulfilled.' The disciples, however, understood none of this." The passage presages the themes of Lent and Holy Week.
Revised Common Lectionary
In the Revised Common Lectionary the Sunday before Lent is designated "Transfiguration Sunday", and the gospel reading is the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus from Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Some churches whose lectionaries derive from the RCL, e.g. the Church of England, use these readings but do not designate the Sunday "Transfiguration Sunday".
Eastern Orthodox Church
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, its equivalent, the Sunday before the Great Lent, is called the Forgiveness Sunday or the Cheesefare Sunday. The latter name comes because this Sunday Cheesefare Week concludes. The former name derives from that this Sunday is followed by a special Vespers called the Forgiveness Vespers which opens Great Lent.