Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Growing up Catholic, I would give up something for the 40 days before Easter – and mostly did it because it was what you did when you grew up Catholic – but this year, i’m giving something up, and the Sears family is also giving something up – as a daily reminder of the sacrifice, and a preparation for the celebration of Easter Sunday.
Why 40 days? The 40 days of Lent echo the period of withdrawal of Jesus into the wilderness. The number 40 has several other Biblical references: Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God; Elijah spent 40 days and nights walking to Mount Horeb; it rained for a similar length of time in the days of Noah; the Hebrew people journeyed for 40 years travelling to the Promised Land Canaan; Jonah gave the city of Nineveh 40 days time in which to repent. Jesus retreated into the desert where he fasted for 40 days and nights, and it was during this time that he was tempted by the devil.
Interestingly enough – the protestant churches that observe lent call for a reprieve of any personal sacrifice on Sundays – because Christ HAS conquered sin and death, and Sundays are always to remain a celebration . . .