Is God a Mathematician? Did we invent math or did we discover it? These are the questions asked in a 2009 book by Mario Livio, which, it will surprise no one who knows me, I haven’t read. For me to claim any knowledge of mathematics would be laughable, but I do read book reviews in The Washington Post and was intrigued enough by the title’s question to read the entire article in 2009, and its questions have stayed with me. Did God use mathematical principles to order the world, or did man invent mathematical principles to explain God’s creation? I was pleased by the Anglican conclusion the author apparently reaches that math is both invented and discovered – an inclusive “both/and” way of thinking that we’re so comfortable with in the Episcopal Church.
We have our own ways of using numbers to organize life in the Church. Twelve days of Christmas. Forty days of Lent. Fifty days of Pentecost. And God forbid the service go longer than 60 minutes! My favorites though are those words we have for the seventieth, sixtieth and fiftieth days before Easter – Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. (Almost as satisfying to say as isosceles trapezoid.) We begin these particular milestones this Sunday, celebrating the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday, or Septuagesima as we’ll surely want to refer to it. Of course, if you actually count the days, we’ll only be 63 days before Easter on Sunday. Quinquagesima, on February 10, comes closer, falling 49 days before Easter. Now that’s my kind of math.
Sadly, in 1976 the Anglican Communion eliminated the names for these three Sundays before Lent, and this year will prosaically call them the Third, Fourth and Last Sunday after the Epiphany. Just as well that Hallmark didn’t come out with a line of Quinquagesima cards.