And so we begin the journey of Lent, forty days (Sundays not counted).
Forty days has special significance in our faith tradition. How many biblical references to “forty days” can you think of? Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights (Matthew 4), in the days of Noah it rained for forty days and nights (Genesis 7), Moses was with God on Mount Sinai creating the covenant for forty days (Exodus 34).
It is said that life begins at 40 years of age. Also, the usual number of weeks a baby stays in the womb is a gestation period of 40 weeks. Is forty some sort of mystical number, or is it somehow a part of the fabric of creation?
While large sections of our nation are experiencing a frigid polar vortex and temperatures are dipping into minus degrees, I am fascinated with the numeric/mathematic wonder of −40°. It is when both Fahrenheit and Celsius are the same temperature. Though the scales are different, they come to the same place at forty below. It hardly seems to be where life begins or even survives.
OK…here is another…
Quarantine, is a 40-day isolation period practiced since the time of the Black Death in the mid 1300s. The experience was that isolating for 40-days completed the contagion cycle of the epidemic disease.
A 40 day/week/month/year cycle is about completeness and wholeness.
Though it may make one feel unsettled or uncomfortable, our season of Lent begins with death in mind. On Ash Wednesday we receive the mark of ash and the traditional words — “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is a reflection of the completeness of the life-cycle and our trust in God as creator.
May our 40-day season of Lent bring each of us, and all of us together, to a place of completeness and wholeness. This season is a time to reflect upon purpose and priority — of what and who brings life.
In the Completeness of Christ,