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The Sunday before Lent is the Sunday immediately before the season of Lent, which has had various names in different churches. For much of the history of the Western Church it was generally known as Quinquagesima, but has also been called Quinquagesima Sunday, Quinquagesimae, Estomihi, Shrove Sunday, the Last Sunday after Epiphany, or the Sunday next before Lent.
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]
In the Western calendar the earliest that the Sunday before Lent can occur is February 1 and the latest is March 7.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the term "Quinquagesima" for this Sunday (and the two immediately before it — Sexagesima and Septuagesima Sundays) was eliminated in the reforms following the Second Vatican Council, and these Sundays became considered 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. 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.
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".
The Church of England's Common Worship calendar designates the Sundays between the Presentation of Christ and Ash Wednesday "Sundays before Lent" (the Fourth Sunday before Lent, the Third Sunday before Lent, etc.), and this Sunday the "Sunday next before Lent". They are, however, part of Ordinary Time.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church 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.