Golden Legend – Sexagesima

The Sexagesima beginneth when is sung in the Church, at office of the mass: Exsurge domine, and this endeth the Wednesday after Easter day; and was instituted for redemption, for signification, and for representation. For redemption it was instituted. For Melchiades the Pope and Silvester instituted that men should eat twice on the Saturday, to the end that they that had fasted the Friday, which should always be fasted, were not grieved. And in rechaet then of the Saturdays of this time, they adjousted and joined a week of the Lent thereto, and called it Sexagesima. That other reason is for signification; for that time signifieth the time of widowhood of the Church, and the wailing of the same for the absence of her spouse which was vanished into heaven. There be two wings given to the Church. The first is the exercitation of six works of mercy, and the fulfilment of the ten commandments of the law, for sixty make six sithes ten.

And by six be understood the six works of mercy, and by ten the ten commandments of the law. The third reason is for representation. For the Sexagesima representeth also the mystery of redemption. For by ten is understood the man, which is the tenth penny which is made and formed to that he be the reparation of nine orders of angels, or for that he is formed of four qualities to the body.

And to the soul he hath three powers, that is to wit memory, understanding, and will, which be made that he serve the Blessed Trinity, to the end that we believe firmly in him and love him ardently, and diligently we have and hold him in our mind. By six be understood six mysteries, by the which the man is redeemed by Jesu Christ, the which be the Incarnation, the Nativity, the Passion, his descension into hell, his resurrection, and his ascension into heaven. And because that the Sexagesima stretcheth unto the Wednesday after Easter, that day is sung: Venite benedicti, etc. For they that fulfil the works of mercy shall hear in the end: Venite, as Jesu Christ witnesseth. And then shall the door be opened to the spouse, and embrace God her spouse. And it is warned in an epistle, that she should bear patiently tribulation, as Saint Paul did, in the absence of her spouse. And in the gospel that she be always ententive to sow good works, and that she that had sung as despaired: Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, now return for to demand that she be holpen in her tribulations, and require to be delivered in saying Exsurge domine adjuva, etc., which is the beginning of the office of the mass.

And this doth holy Church in three manners. For some be in holy Church that be oppressed of adversity, but they be not cast out. And some that be not oppressed ne cast out. And some that be oppressed and cast out. And because that they may not bear adversities, it is to dread and great peril lest the prosperities all to-break them. Wherefore holy Church crieth that he arise as to the first in comforting them, for it seemeth that he sleepeth when he delivereth them not. She crieth also as to the second, that he arise in converting them from whom it seemeth that he turneth his face from them in putting them from him. She crieth also as to the third, that he arise in helping them in prosperity, and in delivering them.