by Fr. Kevin Joshua Cosme
Are there really 40 days in Lent?
In imitation of the 40 days of fasting that Christ did after his baptism, Christians from the early centuries wanted to observe 40 days of penance before Easter. Lent originally began on a Sunday and ended on Holy Thursday evening, as it still does today. However, since Sunday is the “Day of the Lord” and is considered a “little Easter”, it is not considered a day of fasting.
Now bear with me as we do some math. To arrive at the number 40, we need six weeks, but excluding Sundays. So 6 weeks times 6 days of penance per week is 36 days. To reach 40, Ash Wednesday was introduced. From Ash Wednesday to the Saturday following it, that’s four more days, which if we add to 36 becomes 40!
This is just to arrive at the symbolic number 40. Remember that officially, Sundays are still part of Lent, and the Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday evening, Good Friday, and Black Saturday are no longer part of Lent.
If this is a little confusing, here’s something that’s not.
Lent is a time not only for penance, but for growth in our relationship with God and with one another. We are exhorted to practice three things especially: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, but always at the service of love.
So if you’re planning to give up sweets, do it lovingly for God, not primarily as a diet. And don’t forget to love your neighbor, so take the money you save and give it to the poor.
Flex our Faith Episode 14: 40 Days of Lent | Aired on March 2, 2022